Formula for Success
Headquartered in Singapore, the YHI Group is active in numerous automotive related sectors, and in addition to operating a global distribution business that covers tyres, automotive batteries and other products, the company has a growing reputation as a manufacturer of alloy wheels. Four facilities – in Shanghai and Suzhou in China, Taoyuan in Taiwan and Sepang in Malaysia – produce wheels according to YHI’s own designs, and the company’s association with OZ S.p.A. and Enkei has added to YHI’s strengths as an original design manufacturer. A significant feather in YHI’s cap has come in 2008 in the form of its first-ever supply of alloy wheels to a Formula One team. Tyres & Accessories spoke to Mr. Richard Tay, YHI group managing director and key founder of the YHI Group.
“The Formula One team (that YHI is supplying) will be Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR), based in Italy and part of the Red Bull Racing team family,” comments Mr. Tay when asked the all-important question. The decision to become involved with this particular team was made, he adds, because although STR is a “modest” team, in 2007 it finished overall higher than the Honda BAR team. Furthermore, says Mr. Tay, STR has some “spectacular young talent aboard, including Germany’s Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais from France.” The partnership will continue through to the end of the 2010 season. When asked if YHI has plans to supply other teams, his reply is “not at the moment.” As he explains: “This will be our maiden year in Formula One, so we will take one step at a time.”
For the 2008 season YHI will supply between 30 and 50 sets of wheels to the team. The length of time YHI’s engineers spent developing the company’s Formula One wheel remains Mr. Tay’s secret, but what he did tell Tyres & Accessories is that during the course of getting the wheel to its finished state YHI drew on its partnership with OZ in Italy, a company that has invested heavily in motorsport wheel manufacturing and R&D facilities. “OZ have helped and introduced Formula One to YHI in a big way,” says Mr. Tay. And when talking about the wheel’s development, the group managing director’s pride in YHI’s achievement is evident, as is his awareness of the agreement’s significance to the company. “As you know, with YHI being a official partner to STR team, we have become the first Singaporean or even the first Asian team outside of Japan to be the supplier of a Formula One team, so it’s definitely something we will treasure and be proud of,” he says. “In terms of technical superiority, definitely, we will gain huge advantages in terms of R&D designs and produce top-notch products for many years to come with such experience.”
The wheels supplied are YHI’s own Advanti Racing private brand wheels. What in general, we asked, was behind YHI’s decision to supply this particular brand to a Formula One team? “Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport,” Mr. Tay elaborates. “And YHI’s relations with OZ Racing makes it so much easier to be in this sport with a full assurance that it will be a competitive product to be one of the brightest teams in the sport. On top of this, there are many marketing opportunities that could arise from this program and it will take us further into our most important market for the next three to five years, being Europe and Asia.”
Asia’s increasing importance as a market for YHI’s wheels is apparent. “Formula One is viewed by more than 300 million viewers and 80 million of them are in Asia,” says Mr. Tay. “In Asia, YHI is one of the most respected companies in the alloy wheels business, hence it makes a lot of sense that we market both in Asia and to the world our own propriety brand, Advanti Racing.” Europe’s status as a market remains strong, however. “Advanti’s biggest base is in Europe, whereby we have some outstanding partners which are producing excellent distribution and marketing services. With the partnership with STR, we will take it to the next level by competing with the other big alloy wheel brands in Europe in the biggest motorsport event in the world, Formula One.”
“Advanti Racing is our propriety alloy wheel brand of which it’s been marketed mostly in the Asian and now the European region,” Mr. Tay continues. “In the Asian region, lightweight and trendy products sell the best, hence we consider ourselves one of the more sporty and youthful companies in this region, because this is the main target market of these wheel segments. On another note, YHI Manufacturing is also renowned for the aftermarket wheels business, with many top companies around the world entrusting us with their own private wheel designs, being Enkei Tuning and MSW by OZ just to name a few.”
And exactly how does YHI intend to benefit from its Formula One involvement in terms of marketing? Marketing-wise, Mr. Tay responds, 2008 will more be a year in which to learn valuable lessons. “There are many possibilities to market our alloy wheels both in the short-term and long-term. Short-term wise we are maybe to increase our sales through new clients acquisition and enlarge our customer base. On the long-term we are able to build our brand and command better and stable prices, with the most significant issue being product loyalty from consumers…overall we are looking to impart further technological expertise and demands from this sport and to market it to the masses, hence better loyalty and recognition.”
In addition to Formula One involvement, YHI has participated in a number of other motorsport events. “We sponsored many local racing teams in Asia, namely the entire Yokohama VW Polo Cup in China were solely using Advanti Wheels since the 2003 season and we are also the wheel supplier to Team Subaru China in the China Rally Championship (CRC), just to name a few,” comments the YHI group managing director. Each of these co-operative arrangements will continue alongside YHI’s new Formula One participation, and in future each of the company’s key international branches will develop its own motorsport programme.