Back in the fast lane
Just two years ago, Autostrada Motore Inc. president Marc Soong was ready to bow out of the race for leadership in the Philippines’ small but prestigious market for ultraluxury sports cars, those perfect specimens of engineering that run on four wheels and command an eight-figure price tag.
Soong’s spirit was battered by the loss of a longstanding distributorship deal involving a British brand, which he handled for some 12 years. Plus, Autostrada, which distributes the Ferrari and Maserati brands in the Philippines, was beset by external challenges such as growing inflation, fear of a significant tax hike on luxury vehicles, and increased competition among distributors, who are all pursuing basically the same group of people who can afford these machines that can accelerate to 100 kilometers per hour in a matter of seconds.
As Soong himself estimates, his morale was at a low three out of 10, making him a poor source of inspiration for the over 100-strong distribution and sales organization that he started leading some four years ago.
Fate fortunately intervened early last year when he decided to join the Toyota Vios Cup race.
It was then that things started turning around for the 38-year-old Business Administration graduate of the University of the Philippines.
Soong said getting behind the wheel of the souped-up car heightened his senses in a way that driving regular vehicles failed to do.
“It was like suddenly I was hearing a full orchestra when before I was only listening through a bluetooth speaker because I did not know how to use the machine,” Soong said.
With help from a professional race driver and mentor, Soong was able to quickly cut his race time.
When he started in early 2017, he would complete a 4.2-kilometer lap in 2 minutes and 34 seconds. After about seven months, he was able to cut it down to 2 minutes and 26.5 seconds. Then in an official race late last year, the novice race driver was able to beat more experienced rivals to come in at third overall.
The sweltering heat, the cloying smell of burnt rubber and gasoline proved to be exhilarating, helping Soong find his missing mojo.
“That got me back,” Soong told the Inquirer. “That passion for driving made me feel alive again. I was half dead before that.”
That infectious passion carried over to the workplace.
Soong shifted his mindset and focused on finding ways to get Autostrada—specifically Ferrari—in front, with the help of a lean and mean organization injected with a fresh sense of purpose.
As his driving teacher always told him, the goal is to finish first.
“Otherwise, why bother?,” Soong said.
As his confidence and morale improved, so did that of the Autostrada team. He took each member to the race track so that they will have a better feel and insight into the high precision instruments that they are selling.
“People from our accounting department never thought they would get inside a Ferrari,” said Soong, “It was my bond with the people, I drove every one of them.”
With management and team members working together with renewed vim and vigor, Soong is confident that the Ferrari will be able to navigate through the challenging course of the auto sector in the Philippines and come out ahead.
Soong shared that just two weeks ago, the 132 staff members of Autostrada got their new ID cards with the new mission and vision statements.
They also took part in a town hall meeting where they talked about the values of the company founded by his father, Wellington Soong, who still supervises the group.
“The company is not just there to make money,” said Soong, who joined the family business as soon as he graduated in 2002.
“It is also about living out values of excellence, passion, integrity, community, solicitude, professionalism and intrapreneurship,” he added.
The organization is also committed to take care of such a revered brand as Ferrari, which has espoused a culture of winning since it was founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929.
Ferrari, Soong said, is “driven to fulfill your personalized dream” and positioned “at the apex of Italian automotive sporting luxury.”
The Maranello-based Ferrari is one of the most consistent top placers in the Formula 1 racing circuit with the brand enjoying high esteem, even among those who can just dream about owning a vehicle with the famous prancing horse.
Soong is confident that with such a valuable brand behind Autostrada and with an entire team working every day with a renewed sense of purpose – and his own morale now back to 10 – Autostrada will eventually take pole position in the race toward leadership in the Philippine super cars market.
“I am now driving the company into a bright future,” Soong said.
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