Saturday, July 30, 2011

CT 200h - how powerful is the h, really?

Was out and about on a lazy weekend, and decided to finally give the much acclaimed (and awaited) Lexus CT 200h a spin. The first time I met the hybrid was during its debut in Tokyo Motorshow a good few years back when like the A1 Metropolis, it was good thinking on paper, great looking in prototype. Now that it's finally here, let us see if it lives up to its game - a luxurious sporty hybrid that it was born to become.

I must say that any normal Joe would be impressed at its high-tech functionality when it comes to simple routine such as locking and unlocking your door. Slide here to lock, touch there to unlock, our first greeting seemed promising. And then you get into the vehicle, and immediately feel a sense of pressure to act smart. This CT 200h at first introduction can be quite intimidating. I've been driving for so many years, and learning about so many cars, yet I feel stupid when I am finally behind its wheel. It felt as though my driving brain has escaped me, not knowing where all the buttons, switches and levers are. This like the Prius is a vehicle which you need to unlearn your driving skills and be reborn as a high-tech sophisticated tree junkie. While keyless entry and start/stop function will soon (we foresee) to be standard features in all vehicles in the future, I was still amaze at the cocktail of buttons and knobs presented on the instrument panel. The switches may take awhile to familiarize but certainly not rocket science. However, due to the change of this driving configuration, I'd assume many retirees would rather pick the Honda Insight instead of this, even though they could afford it. Well, at 60 and after battling hard wars, you just wanna GO and not figure HOW TO anymore.

Back to our drive. At our first handshake, the CT 200h came to life. Silence. Which to be fair, is not uncommon in all hybrids be it Prius or the Honda Insight. Petrol guzzlers will be amazed. It's like magic... :) I didn't quite fancy the dash nor the display panel though - somehow, it didn't seem as premium as I thought it should be. We backed out from the parking lot with ease as I had the high-spec model which comes with a reverse camera but soon I realized that I needed to readjust my foot strength on the brake pedal. A lot. It's strange because you either release the pedal, or you step on it and I think most of us are used to adjusting the torque from standstill by balancing our foot strength. Although I'm not sure of the system (hydraulics and regenerative I know) but there's a tiny sound of 'pssssss' every time I brake. Strange. I did asked the Sales Advisor if it was normal and he replied, not to worry, it's adjustable. Hmm.

CT 200h and I took a run around Kota Damansara area with a short sprint on Penchala Link to try the Sports mode. This car with the same engine as the 1.8cc Prius is a joy to drive on urban roads. Easy handling, responsive and zippy. But when it hit the highway, there was certainly a delay before power comes in to aid acceleration. I like how the display panel's blue glow turned to red when Sports mode is engaged, but I'd prefer the car to perform rather than to show. As we revved up to about 100km/h, the power fully settled in and it became quite fun to curve around. Unfortunately, I could only enjoy about 10 minutes of this in a mild and controlled setting because we spotted a police roadblock. Dang.

In terms of fuel-efficiency, I was told that you could fill a full tank with RM80 and run the car for about 800 to 1000km. Wow. Now, that's probably the most impressive piece of fact I've absorbed so far about this hybrid. We can't compare apple to apple with the other two available hybrids in Malaysia since the drive train and system as well as the build of the vehicle are different. But that is really a very impressive mileage to clock. I was told also that, more ladies are attracted to the CT 200h because of its sporty and stylish good looks, compact, powerful enough for its segment as well as more importantly, the real fuel-economy deal (a word I try to skip most of the time, because it's so compromised!). Guys? Nah... Unless, they are your rich boy-next-door who are planning to save earth for his unborn children. Kudos to them, this car will serve them well. At least, it looks really sporty and when you're stuck in a jam, who cares if it can't really sprint right?! (again, I'm referring to same segment drives okay, please do not compare this to current available compact sedans because it WILL outrun them :P).

There are currently two variants available - the entry level and the high-spec model. Both offers the same performance package. What's different is the swanky features and controls such as the smart entry system, rain sensor wipers, auto turn lights, navigation system and a whole bunch of other knobs and buttons that really put the haute back into the CT 200's h which if you skim the trim, you'd end up with a luxury badge without the real substance :/ But this substance would set you back an additional RM40k. Oh well, like I said earlier, in a traffic jam, who would know if your seats are not powered right? :)

All-in-all, I have actually considered this car. Not in a 'I wanna buy this car' way, but 'will I ever buy this car' sort of way. Initially, the answer was skewed towards a favourable 'yes'. And I would if it was a lot more sportier as it has trumpeted to be. My expectation was really high. Having said that, don't misunderstand me, it doesn't lack any horses. With a combined maximum output of 134hp from both engine and motor, it is more than sufficient for zipping urban roads and cruising on suburban ones. The drive is comfortable and composed, even if it's the sports mode, it doesn't misbehave. This is probably as naughty as Lexus can ever get and that to me, is the problem (oh hang on a minute. They do have the LFA...).

Anyway, if you are over 30, female or a metro male (and everyone in between), don't mind paying more for something that's truly unique and unconventional and at the same time, needing to satisfy the very practical left side of your brain in terms of overall running cost, the CT 200h is for you. Wait no more. Entry-level model starts from RM171k and the high-spec variant is priced at RM202k.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What leaders do or do not.

I learned this yesterday over a-very-important dinner.

1) Be passionate
2) Be fair
3) Be innovative

1) Be angry
2) Be demotivated
3) Be lazy

So simple in theory. But so difficult to achieve in reality.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Volkswagen Malaysia's response to my love letter.


Anyway, I feel that I should update the situation so as not to create any misunderstanding and also give due credit to those who really helped me out.

After submitting my complain to VGM, the following took place:

1) 7 months of waiting, shortened to 7 days for action ;)
2) Because of my dear and very helpful friends, my 'letter' was lucky enough to get the attention of some obviously very high post people and this matter was immediately looked upon. Shortly after that, FA Wagen called me and told me the key is ready and I can send my car in for reconfiguration.
3) The manager called me for a detailed explanation of the situation as he had to write a report to VGM regarding this matter. I told him what I could remember and specifically told him not to zero in on anyone because I spoke to a few people and unfortunately could only remember one person's name. My hint was: NO scapegoating please.
4) I sent in my car this morning for the reconfiguration and the After-sales Manager was extremely helpful and hospitable in making sure my car and I were all right. But of course, many of you would think it's only reasonable for him to do that. They gave me a whole bunch of merchandizes which I declined because seriously... there's really no need for that, I just wanted my key. But I thought the keychain was cool ;)
5) They also checked my car for a specific engine noise (which I told them about) and they even changed the parts for me since it's still under warranty.
6) They gave me a 45,000km free service (yippie! But like I said, ABT kit would have been nice ;))
7) They gave me a discount on labour charges and the new key. They even topped up petrol for me!
8) They were very very very apologetic and even hinted that someone may get laid off due to this incident because VGM takes this sort of matter very seriously. I expressed my concern because like I said, I am not here to create a scapegoat situation which is always the easy way out for the management (if you haven't heard enough, I just want my friggin' key! Not someone's job!!).
9) I felt really bad because although as much as I wanted my key, I didn't think it should cost someone his or her job. So I called VGM again and requested to speak to the Director of Service (apparently it was his call). Instead, I spoke to the Customer Care Officer who replied my complain earlier to clarify the situation as according to her, he has stepped out (yea right! I bet he's sitting nicely in his swanky room! He he he, we've all been in that situation before! :P). But anyway, she was helpful and assured me that only a warning letter was issued and there was no laying off of anyone. So I called FA Wagen back and told them that they don't have to worry about it. Unless, of course, she bluffed me.

And everyone lives happily ever after.

If you ask me, I think there are some fundamental problems with this situation. I think VGM is teething (and it's common for any automakers who are growing leaps and bounds in this country) and service or after-sales is definitely one of the most challenging aspects of a growing business. I think what was missing was a standard operating procedure for after-sales. I'm just guessing that no one has ever filed a missing key and no one really knew what to do with this kind of situation. Hence, they're giving different answers, with no one to follow up on the case. And even in terms of the SOP for a proper complain - if the customer service did not give me an auto-reply of OUT-OF-OFFICE, I would have waited for someone to come back to me (I mean, I waited 7 months right?). But because it was so! Yes, they finally pushed the right button and I decided to get connected in my own way :) And boy, did it work. Of course, under normal circumstances, it shouldn't be that way. Volkswagen's network should solve my problem, not my OWN social network.

But anyway, I'm back to being a happy customer :) Thank you FA Wagen for rectifying the wheezing sound. And when I drove back just now, my GTI never felt newer. If they caught my hint, they would definitely invite me to test drive the new Golf R when it arrives ;)

And thanks you peoples :) For spreading the message :) Appreciate that.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A love letter to Volkswagen Malaysia.

Hi there,

How are you? I’d like to express my displeasure on Volkswagen. I currently drive a Golf GTI with the above stated number plate and last December, I lost one of my two car keys. Of which, I reported to FA Wagen and told them to immediately disable one of the keys and order a new one. They did disable the key, so my car is now running on safe mode (of which I’m sure you know, it means I can’t access the MID) until I have the new spare key. It’s now July and I STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN my key. Should I run on safe mode for the rest of my life?


Anyway, every 2 months, I’ve been calling the dealer. And every time I get appeased because on the phone, they are really helpful. So I told myself to be patient because I know how difficult it is to deal with anal customers and I don’t want to be one. But every 2 months since DECEMBER!? First time, they told me system is down. Second time they told me system in GERMANY is down (are you kidding me?). Third time they told me, no stock. Now, today I called again and they told me system is down again and they cannot check whether they ordered the key in the first place. Seriously, are you so freaking kidding me? Patience also got limit? No? Not for you?

Please do not be biased and take my side just because I’m an angry customer ranting. But do put yourself in my shoes. If this was the government handling your important documents, would you still have the same patience as me? Actually, on the contrary it is quite expected for them to do so… perhaps I would have been more forgiving. But this is Volkswagen? I paid good money for a good product and I assumed GOOD SERVICE. I’m sorry, I don’t need you guys to kiss the ground I walked on and I am not, or at least I think I am not, one of those customers who have a little bit more pocket money and expect service providers to worship my dust. But seriously… 7 months? And NEVER once I raised my voice to your SAs. But seriously, 7 months? I worked hard for my money and admittedly, I don’t have much. I used my entire life savings to buy this car, therefore my GTI is very precious to me. So I beg of you. I will worship the ground that you walk on if you can get a key for me. Can you please look into this matter?

I don’t really care so much for apologies or a red carpet rolled out if from this incident, I’m invited to grace the grounds of your HQ, right up to your MD’s room. I just want my key. That’s all.

I just want my key. And I want my car to be serviced in the way it should be so that it is in its ever tip top condition so that I can always enjoy the driving experience the GTI is built to offer. That’s all. I just want my key. For freak sake, I’m not even asking it to be FREE! I will pay for it! I just want my key. And if you haven’t have enough of this, I just want my key. Again. Thanks.

Please try to be nice to FA Wagen should you wish to speak to their representative(s) who sounded helpful on the phone (and obviously, wasn’t). Because I don’t want my car to be blacklisted the next time I service it. I wanna be friends and this is a friendly email. Thank you.

I really look forward to hearing from you. And in case, this email doesn’t reach you directly. I’m sharing it on a couple of social sites, hoping that your PR team will somehow pick it up, somewhere via one of your sophisticated social media tracking tools. A lot of people love VW and it’s a growing brand, so don’t worry. One little email like this, I personally feel will do your brand no detrimental harm. Well, if it did, I apologise. But please do understand that I just wanna get connected to you. To have my key. That’s all.

My number is 012-(blipped out for obvious reasons). Call me?

Thank you once again and have a good day.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A weekend conversation on being clean.

(friend) says:
this stinx
then come monday
everyone is back to normal

(sparks) says:
no it won't
the important thing is for ppl to know
malaysians DO care
we do care
whether we're there or not
and it's just to show us
the gov may not be clean
but the next election, we HAVE to vote
we have make each of our vote accounted for
no more phantom voters who are using our ballot
we can choose
Bersih is only the means
to an end
the end is the end of BN.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One of the best videos made for Bersih 2.0. My country has hope.

I'm so touched. Really am. Have never been so so so so proud of being a Malaysian. And never been so ashamed of our law enforcers...

Monday, July 11, 2011

A display of the people’s spirit - The Edge Malaysia.

Thank you Lord, You have answered our prayer. We did not respond in violence but in civility and courage. And I thank You for Your grace and protection over everyone who was present that day. You have walked with them and I pray that You continue to do so and protect us from evil. Amen.


Written by Max Koh
Monday, 11 July 2011 10:39

When I volunteered to cover the Bersih 2.0 rally on the eve of the event, I felt an equal sense of excitement and trepidation.

I was excited because the rally has gathered a momentum not seen before, with increasing support from the public. But I was also fearful as certain quarters alluded to the possibility of rioting and mob violence.

The night before, I read up on the precautions and measures to take before going for the rally. I packed salt (which was easier to carry than toothpaste and cheaper), some Snickers bars, a towel, a water bottle and a change of clothes. I took note of what to do in case I was detained by the police.

I also deliberated on my choice of attire. I had to wear a neutral colour that did not link me to any particular movement or political party. So instead of red, yellow, blue, green or purple, I wore black.

When the time arrived on July 9, a few journos and I decided to take the LRT and alight at KL Sentral. It was 10am. After a hearty breakfast at McDonald’s, we decided to walk towards Stadium Merdeka but were stopped by policemen at a petrol station in Brickfields.

When I flashed my media tag, the inspector merely said: “Sorry, media is also not allowed anywhere near the stadium. If you want to go in, you can take the LRT down to Pasar Seni”.

From the LRT train, we could see pockets of people gathering in front of the old railway station. The scene was similar on the grounds of the Pasar Seni LRT station. Policemen were stationed in front of Central Market but there were no signs of arrests or disturbances.

The FRU firing tear gas to disperse the crowd in Jalan Pudu during last Saturday's rally.
Then, we heard cries in the distance. “Hidup, Hidup, Hidup Rakyat. Reformasi!” (Long live the people! Reformation!) As the chants grew louder, we saw thousands of people walking from the railway station. We joined in, as the group marched towards Dataran Merdeka. We were stopped by a police barricade there. At one point, the group broke into Negaraku. As soon as the singing stopped, the police fired tear gas into the crowd.

As advised by my friends, I came prepared. The tear gas stung my eyes and nose but it was not as bad as I had expected. The group soon retreated towards the old railway station. We followed at the tail-end as they marched towards Petaling Street.

Many shops were closed except for a small store and a 7-11 outlet which were doing brisk business. What struck me was that people lined up in an orderly manner to pay for their drinks. No one was pushing or looting. The store on its part did not hike up its prices and sold mineral water at RM1. McDonald’s was also open for business and was packed with people.

We then reached the Puduraya and Menara Maybank junction where thousands were gathered. I noticed that the crowd had a good mix of races, all conversing with each other. The FRU and policemen had barricaded the road in front of Menara Maybank.

A group of Muslims was seen praying on the street. My colleague even managed to buy ice cream from a nearby vendor.

Then a bell rang and tear gas was fired. I was caught in the middle of this round. The tear gas stung my eyes as I struggled to cover my face with a towel. I choked as I tried to run away as more tear gas was fired at us. At a safe distance, I ate some salt and tried to catch my breath. At this time, it began to drizzle.

The protesters were then instructed by their leaders to sit down peacefully. They chanted “Hidup Hidup, Hidup Rakyat”. No one was seen provoking the police.

No one hurled stones at them. Then the tear gas came again. This time, it really hurt and I struggled to eat salt as I ran down the road towards Jalan Bukit Bintang.

The rain poured even more heavily. We saw the police barricade in front of us and realised we were trapped from both ends. Some of the crowd took shelter in Tung Shin Hospital, while some of us ran to a dead-end road to take shelter from the rain and regain our strength. By this time, our group of five journalists had been separated from one another. My phone battery had died and I stopped sending live updates to my editor.

In the midst of the chaos, I saw strangers sharing salt and drinking water. People warned one another about potholes. A young man placed a balloon on a pothole as a warning to others.

In the brief moment of respite, another journo and I decided to take shelter at Tung Shin Hospital, thinking that the police would not fire into the hospital. We were wrong.

Within the Tung Shin compound, I was hit the hardest by the tear gas. It burned my esophagus and eyes. I felt I was on the verge of passing out. Somehow, I managed to eat some salt. At this time, I was thinking about giving up.

At about 3.40pm, some Bersih leaders were seen negotiating with the police to allow the crowd to disperse peacefully and march peacefully along the road.

After 20 minutes of negotiations, Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah was arrested, and tear gas and water cannon were shot. This time, the police entered Tung Shin Hospital to arrest people.

By 4pm, people began to disperse. For those who criticise Bersih for being an uncivil gathering, I witnessed nothing but civil acts of kindness, peace, love and solidarity among Malaysians.

There were no rabble-rousers looking for a fight. I did not witness anyone hurling insults at the police or doing anything to provoke them. Instead of parangs or molotov cocktails, I saw people holding flowers and Malaysian flags.

When the police shot tear gas at the crowd, I only saw people helping one another. A middle-aged Malay woman covered a Chinese friend’s head with her tudung. A man bravely ran to cover the tear gas cannisters.

There are many people’s personal accounts of the Bersih 2.0 rally on Twitter and other social media.

For me, what I witnessed at the Bersih rally was a story of tenacity, bravery, solidarity, kindness, civility and hope.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, July 11, 2011.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

1 John 3:11-21: For God is greater.

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.

Dear Lord, today my country needs us. We want to see change, not in our system but also in ourselves. Help us open our eyes and be patient with us. Teach us to respond in love and not in violence. Please be with my fellow people and keep all of them, ALL of them safe. May Your glory go with them to victory today. And today onwards, we will see CHANGE. Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Like a kid running with the wind :)

When you see an opportunity, chase it. Chase it like you never did before. Chase it till your legs can't carry you anymore. Chase it till your heart feels like it's gonna burst out of your chest. Chase it like it's never gonna come again. Just chase it, because you only live once.

Be proud of what you do and don't do what you're not proud of.

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

Too often than not, we don't find enough people in this industry who're truly proud of what they do. Only during exceptional cases when an award is won or recognition is publicly given. Everyone in the agency should take pride in what they do. Only when we take pride in something, we truly give our best.

Put your head up and take a big stride to work today. You are the difference in your company ;)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Amazing copywriting moves mountain.

How tired I am of this unbearable distance between us
How I long for the toll of the recess bell
Have you forgotten me
Grown mindless of me
Tell me I am not writing into an abyss
Or that is what would become of my heart

There's no title to this feeling.