Eight minutes into his YouTube review of a used 2011 Lexus 1S 250 facelift, Bobby Ang hasn’t left the parking space. Instead, he talks viewers through the minute details of the car’s interior, from soft-touch dashboards to “proper wood trim” and “high-quality sun visors.” There are six seconds of stroking footwell carpets too. “You don’t even get such luxurious carpets in [a] BMW,” he says. Once he finally gets on the road, the patter doesn’t let up. There are exclamations at the suspension as the car glides noiselessly over speed bumps and at the “buttery smooth” steering.
The detail is painstaking, but then it isn’t casual viewers whom Ang is targeting. He appeals to Malaysians who are serious about picking up a used car — people like Lim Hui Ting, a Kuala Lumpur–based entrepreneur, who sat through all 37 minutes of the review as well as several other YouTube videos, as he searched for a vehicle to use for work trips around the country.
Ting told Rest of World he didn’t want to pore through technical articles, but he didn’t trust a used car dealer to answer his questions, so he turned to YouTube. “It feels more reliable,” he said. “I want to be able to see what the car looks like and what it sounds like on the road. It feels more interactive.”
Ang has 120,000 subscribers to his channel. He also collaborates on commercial content campaigns with a network of 15 other YouTubers — each with the same in-depth automotive content and tens of thousands of subscribers — through his company, Aurizn. The scale of his operation is testament to the growing power of social content in transforming secondhand car sales in Malaysia — a segment that has grown dramatically over the past few years. Carsome, an online used car marketplace, became Malaysia’s first tech “unicorn” — a private company valued at more than $1 billion — last July. The Federation of Motor and Credit Companies Association of Malaysia (FMCCAM) predicts that 480,000 used cars will be sold in Malaysia in 2022, up from around 428,000 last year.
The growth is partly down to a post-pandemic urge among consumers to move off public transport and into private vehicles, according to Datuk Tony Khor, president of FMCCAM, but “online platforms have also helped provide a better understanding of secondhand vehicles, and this has bolstered customer confidence in used cars,” he told Rest of World.
The platforms have been boosted by an ecosystem of social media influencers, review sites, and other content creators who give consumers more information — and more confidence — than they might previously have had.
“Twenty years ago, people just looked around town for used car dealerships. They’d walk in and unknowingly ask for a couple of cars and probably overpay,” KianYeh Gan, managing director at Carlist.my, a listing site for used and new cars, told Rest of World. “Now consumers have every single price point at their fingertips, and they know everything about the vehicle before they head to the dealership.”
Ang, the influencer, said that keeping the consumer’s trust is key to his success. “As a buyer, we want to see the car, hear it, feel it. … And you can’t lie to your audience on video,” he told Rest of World. “If a used car dealer comes to me and says, ‘Bobby, can I pay you X amount of money to tell people how good this used car is to help me sell it,’ that is one thing I don’t do.” His company does work with car manufacturers and dealers to help them create their own social content campaigns.
The content and sales businesses are symbiotic, and are becoming more tightly integrated. In May, Carsome acquired WapCar, a Malaysian content platform that bills itself as a one-stop shop for research on new and used cars, for an undisclosed sum. Launched in 2019, WapCar publishes around 1,400 articles and 100 videos on YouTube and TikTok each month, according to its new parent company, and had more than 6 million average monthly active users in the last quarter of 2021.
One click takes users from an owner’s review of a 2018 Kia Sportage diesel to a list of similar models for sale from either parent company Carsome or private sellers. There are high-resolution images of the car from every angle, detailed seller notes on previous owners, and information on mileage and specifications. A user can check dealership reviews, click through to apply for a finance agreement, and WhatsApp the seller directly to arrange an appointment to view the car or exchange documentation.
Ting, who watched Ang’s videos, followed a similar route to buy his own vehicle using Caricarz, another of the platforms vying for a piece of the market. He watched several of the upbeat YouTube reviews on Caricarz, before browsing through its catalog. Ang’s video nearly sold him on the Lexus, but in the end, he decided on a used Toyota Mark X. “Bobby’s review made it harder to choose, as the two cars had nearly identical prices,” he said. “But the Toyota is more spacious.”