Singapore-based online used car platform Carro has announced it has made a strategic investment in Driven Communications, which runs the automotive websites paultan.org, CarBase.my and oto.my. The deal involves the purchase of a “non-controlling stake” in the company, with co-CEOs Paul Tan and Harvinder Singh set to retain leadership of the firm; it’s expected to be completed within two months.
Carro, the owner of local used car site myTukar, said that Driven will keep its board of directors and has ensured continued employment of its 40-odd employees (full disclosure: this author used to write for paultan.org). Aside from running the said websites, the company also provides services to other automotive brands, producing videos, organising events and handling social media accounts.
In particular, paultan.org prides itself on being one of Malaysia’s top automotive websites, claiming to receive up to 6 million page visits per month. Carro reassured readers of the popular website that Driven will continue to exercise “complete autonomy” over its editorial direction and decision.
“We welcome Carro’s strategic investment and our shared vision of a better, digitalised, transparent automotive used car ecosystem,” Tan said. “Like many businesses, Driven Communications suffered financially during [the COVID-19 pandemic]. We are thankful for Carro’s future support that will protect our sites that loyal fans have come to love, save jobs and ensure continued independent reviews.”
Singh added, “We are thrilled to know that Carro respects our editorial independence, our work with our customers, and encourages us to charge arm’s-length commercial charges to Carro group of companies. With this investment, we are looking forward to achieving profitability and growth beyond Malaysia.”
Stiff competition from other sites
Carro said the investment is aimed at providing Driven with much-needed financial support, as referenced by a quote from Carro’s chief financial officer Ernest Chew: “Our investment and support gives Driven Communications room to achieve immediate positive net income, putting them on a stable financial standalone footing with strong earnings growth potential.”
But there’s another issue at play here, and that’s the increased competition from other publications, many of which have already been purchased by Carro’s competitors. Although the company did not name names, it is thought that one of the rivals it was referring to was local used car player Carsome, which bought Carlist.my and WapCar in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
Carro said this has resulted in “multiple dealers/platforms being blocked,” which it claimed is stifling competition and preventing customer access across the region. This is something the investment in Driven—ostensibly meant to encourage openness and independence in the automotive media landscape—is supposed to change.
“We are a believer that classifieds and other services under Driven Communications should continue to be made available to their existing clientele, as well as our customers, dealers and competitors—a move we hope all classifieds emulate, given the Malaysian government initiative to break down monopolies and anti-competitive behaviour,” said Carro co-founder and CEO Aaron Tan, who also encouraged other industry players to invest in Driven.
Aaron acknowledged Driven’s contribution to myTukar’s business since the two companies started working together two years ago. “They helped us launch our first myTukar Autofair in Malaysia and their digital online reach was incredible. Feedback from other automotive participants has been amazing; OEMs and end-customers alike rely on them. It would be a shame that it does not have the right resources and tools to scale higher.”