Interview with an International Jeep Distributor

by Larry H. Morton
(USA)

Jeep Test Drives

Jeep Test Drives

Interviewer: Larry Morton, Owner www.4-The-Love-Of-Jeeps.com


Guest: Paul Tashner, Siberian-American International Trading Company, Inc. (SAITCO)


Paul Tashner is a self-described "Jeep Fanatic" and "Jeep Lover" who contacted me through my website Contact Me page.

Paul states that he works for a company called Siberian-American International Trading Company, Inc. (SAITCO) currently doing business promoting, selling and repairing Jeeps in Kazakhstan.

Paul sounded like an interesting fellow "Jeep Lover" with a fascinating job and he agreed to allow me to publish his responses. So I'll start with Paul's initial contact email and include my follow-up questions:


(Paul writes)

Hi,
Jeeps Rock. We thought it was a great time for a Jeep Party to raise spirits, and we had a good one. Check it out at our Jeep Lover's Party, Valentine's Day 2009 at Chimbulak, Kazakhstan, sponsored by SAITCO-Almaty Kazakhstan Ltd.

Jeep Lover's Party Video

Test drives let a lot of folks get behind the wheel for the first time - most comments were positive.

You are welcome to add this video or link to your website to show a fun side of Jeep life, even on the other side of the world. And share the link with your friends.

Oh yeah, we're Jeep fanatics working with our Jeep dealership in Almaty Kazakhstan (where Jeep = Toyota or any 4x4, not just our brand) It's a cultural fight.

Best wishes,
Paul Tashner


(My Response)

Thanks Paul. Looks like you had a fun party there. We don't have any snow skiing here in Texas...have to travel at least 500 miles to find any snow covered mountains.

I would encourage you and your Jeep friends to submit your individual Jeeps and stories here (Your Jeep Page), where I will consider placing them on the website.

Take care,
Larry



(Paul's Response)

Hi Larry,
Thanks. There are a lot of Texans in Kazakhstan working in the oil fields or for the major international oil companies. The oil fields are about 1,500 miles from where our Jeep party happened - it's a big country. Dominated by Asian cars - our Jeeps have a loyal but small following.

Typical of most areas outside the USA, Jeep Lover's are a special breed, special characters with passion for the "go anywhere - do anything" lifestyle.

As we have individual Jeeps to report we'll let you know.

Cheers,
Paul


(My Questions)

Hey Paul,
What does SAITCO stand for? Is that the name of your oil company?

Kazakhstan looks to be just a bit smaller in area than the contiguous U.S. unless my map is not proportioned correctly (which is quite possible).

Thanks,
Larry



(Paul's Response)

Hi Larry,
SAITCO stands for Siberian-American International Trading Company, Inc. We're not an oil company but Jeep distributors for a few small markets outside the USA. I've had the good fortune to test drive all manner of Jeeps over the past 14 years, from the Rubicon Trail to 6 Camp Jeep USA (held conveniently in the Blue Ridge Mountains with 2,500 Jeeps and up to 10,000 happy owners), to a Jeep Commander test drive in Oman, Compass test drive in Sweden, and so on.

As I'm a Jeep lover, it's been a dream job (but the travel does wear on you).

Kazakhstan is about the same size as the Atlantic Coast to Denver and Canadian Border to Gulf of Mexico - with as many different types of terrain from mountains to plains (but no ocean - it's land-locked).

We own a Jeep repair shop in Almaty (the major commercial center) about 300 miles west of the Chinese border. We also sponsor events from time-to-time like the video I sent you.

I travel there frequently and we work hard to sell Jeeps with international specification. That includes driving on the same side as we do in the USA, but with metric primary speedo, side marker lights for European safety requirements, Euro radio / CD players, and European headlamps and tail lamps.

A typical Jeep dealer overseas sells about 100 new Jeeps per year. In most countries American-made vehicles get heavily taxed by the importing country. In Kazakhstan a Wrangler with 3.8L engine will be assessed $9,000 in import tax, engine tax and sales tax - on top of the cost of the vehicle.

Less than 1 in 10 people own cars in Kazakhstan (versus about 9 in 10 in the USA).

With bank loans in a lot of countries (including Kazakhstan) running 25% - 30% per year, virtually nobody takes car loans. So only the top 5% - 10% can afford a luxury car, and everybody saves up and pays cash.

Selling and repairing American vehicles overseas is certainly not easier than selling them in the USA. But it is interesting.

Cheers,
Paul


(My Response and Questions)

Paul...that sounds like a really interesting job. (How could test driving Jeeps all over the world not be interesting..right?)

One more question for now. Are you concerned with the economic situation regarding Chrysler, LLC? If bankruptcy or mergers happen, how might that affect your business?

Also, thanks for your detailed responses.

Larry



(Paul's Response)

Hi Larry,
Test driving is the fun part.

The tough part is taking all the risk, buying the cars from the factory, paying, spending $3,500 transport (domestic + international) per vehicle, having all the costs of the facility and employees and marketing - and then paying the importing government $9,000 - $15,000 per vehicle for their taxes. So we're good for the importing government, right? They don't invest in our business, but we pay a huge amount into their treasury for every vehicle sold. If I were not passionate about what I do, it would not make sense.

Regarding the economic situation, our sales are off 50%+ since August 2008. The past 6 months have been the slowest for us and most other international dealers in the past 8 - 10 years. We are very concerned, but there are niches that still need to buy cars.

In addition to the global economic situation, the front page troubles with GM and Chrysler, LLC make sales even more challenging. I read the 5 page government task force report on Chrysler and it was a pretty accurate and direct assessment. The one sentence summary is that Chrysler is not viable as a stand-alone company with their product mix (heavy in trucks and SUV's), product pipeline, overall economic situation, and pending new US government fuel economy regulations that they cannot meet. That's where the 30 day timetable to merge with Fiat came from.

Well-placed sources in Fiat tell me the deal is pretty much worked out from the Italian side to take Chrysler into the Fiat family. It makes some sense, Fiat has some good little products that sip diesel and gasoline. Will the Viper have a Ferrari last name? It's either merge quickly or a giant "going out of business sale" at Chrysler.

After going through the difficult merger with Daimler and the tremendous cultural differences that had to be overcome, I don't expect it will be any easier for Auburn Hills management to learn Italian (though I must say the food and wine should be spectacular).

Change is simply a way of life for our lives.

Cheers,
Paul


(My Response)

Thanks again Paul for your insiders perspective of this part of the industry and especially your specific business abroad.



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