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10th December 2013

A look back over Motor Trader Malaysia's 15 years

It's been said often that time flies when you're having fun. For Motor Trader magazine, time must have moved at warp speed as the magazine celebrates its 15th anniversary. Where did those years go? For, from its infancy to marking 15 years in automotive sales, the magazine has not only grown but matured as a leading innovator in car sales in Malaysia.

Motor Trader Malaysia was the brainchild of British entrepreneur Sir John Madejski. Madejski had started Auto Trader magazine in the UK in 1975 before selling it in 1998. Flushed with the proceeds of the sale, he saw the opportunities the Malaysian automotive resale market offered for a weekly classifieds magazine and set up shop in the country using the same winning formula he had employed with Auto Trader.

The company Motor Trader Malaysia opened its doors in June 1998 with the office located in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya. The Managing Director was Dr Philip Ng and there were only 18 employees. The editorial department was helmed by Lee Pang Seng. It was a tough time breaking into the used car classifieds at a time when the Star and Malay Mail dominated the used car classifieds. At a time when car classifieds ads were little boxes of black and white text with basic information about the car broken down by car marque, Motor Trader magazine was offering a more attractive used car buying experience. Besides colour photographs of the cars alongside the information, the cars were broken down into colour-coded sections according to car segment. This made it easier for car buyers to find what they were looking for as well as see the actual car for sale. For this new approach to car buying and selling, Motor Trader magazine was sold for the nominal sum of RM2.90 (the cover price in 1998) – a daring move, especially in the Klang Valley where potential used car buyers were accustomed to looking for their dream car via a quick flick through the 'free' section of their daily paper. It was radically different and it worked - Motor Trader soon became a staple of car buyers and sellers in Malaysia.

With the new millennium coming, 1999 was the year that Motor Trader Malaysia made another bold move: the creation of the first online car sales website in Malaysia. This had necessitated setting up a new division and hiring additional staff but a careful study had the management confident that it was the right time to take Motor Trader digital as a supplement to the magazine. Through Motor Trader online, car sellers could reach out to a significantly larger market as the details of cars for sale would now be available to potential buyers at any time of the day. There would be a searchable datable where details like make, model, age, budget and even the location of the seller could be specified making car buying more convenient. Details would be updated regularly ensuring the accuracy of the availability of the cars listed. Today, the Motor Trader website has over 4 million page views on average every month.

As the success of Motor Trader grew with more and more car sellers south of the Klang Valley required the attention of the Sales Department, in 1999 Motor Trader opened an office in Johor Bahru to service the needs of advertisers in the south. This has since been joined by a Motor Trader office in Penang in response to requests from customers in the north.

Kate Stearman-Smith became the Managing Director in 2004 and as staff numbers rose further, Motor Trader soon outgrew its Amcorp Mall offices. It was time for bigger office premises and Motor Trader moved to its current location in Mid Valley in 2006. 2006 was also the year that Motor Trader Malaysia added Bike Trader, a bi-weekly magazine to its stable of titles. Bikes for sale had been a section in Motor Trader and its popularity was such that it was time to launch it as a magazine in its own right with the same user-friendly layout that made it an essential for anyone in the business of bikes, whether as a buyer or seller.

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The business of publishing is always evolving and in 2011, not only did Kate Stearman-Smith announce her retirement, Madejski decided to divest his holdings in Motor Trader Malaysia, selling the company as a going concern to Japanese conglomerate, PROTO Corporation. If it seemed like an uncertain time, PROTO was determined to make the transition from Motor Trader Malaysia to PROTO Malaysia, as the new company came to be called, as seamless as possible for the MTM employees. Mark Cooke, the Director of Sales at Motor Trader Malaysia was named as Kate's successor as Managing Director. Mark Cooke had been Kate's protege in the UK and had been hired by her to come out to Malaysia as the Director of Sales. Rumour has it that Mark had started out in Sales as a cocky young man with a pony tail who told Kate, with the bravado that only a 17 year old could muster, at his job interview that he knew more about selling advertising than half the people on her team. Whether this story is true or the makings of an apocryphal tale, over the years, Mark had proven his abilities and risen through the ranks to be hired by PROTO Corp as the Managing Director.

In 2013, Motor Trader made the search for a car even more convenient with the creation of the Motor Trader iOS app. Now, one could search for one's dream car on their iPhone anywhere when the fancy struck them. The Motor Trader iOS app joined MTSA, Motor Trader Sales Assistant, a Motor Trader proprietary web tool, for car dealers to list their entire sales inventory on Motor Trader online as part of the searchable database of cars available for sale.

As Motor Trader magazine celebrates 15 years in publication, the magazine has spread its wings. It is not just the only weekly classifieds magazine in Malaysia, now it's backed by the website, a proprietary sales tool and an iOS app to support car buyers in their search. We have a Facebook page so that Motor Trader can share the latest updates, respond to queries and listen to feedback from readers. Motor Trader's Facebook page has the distinction of being the most talked about page in Malaysia. Who says that exciting things don't happen at the most unexpected places?

While Motor Trader has evolved with the changing media landscape to keep itself relevant to the needs of car buyers, none of it would have been possible if it were not for our readers' support – your support! So a sincere thank you to everyone who has made this milestone in our history possible and here's a toast to another fifteen more years of Motor Trader magazine.

Check out the Motor Trader 15th Anniversary contest in conjunction with our celebrations for the milestone. There are lots of great prizes to be won including the first prize of a '3 days, 2 nights stay' for two at Chatrium Yangon, Myanmar. We wish we could reward all our readers for their support but since we can't, we can all at least have some fun.


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