Tan Sri Tan Kim Hor, who co-founded the Tan Chong group together with his late brother Tan Sri Tan Yuet Foh, has passed away yesterday. He was 92 years old.
In 1957, his brother Yuet Foh, who was a taxi driver heard that the President of Nissan was coming to Kuala Lumpur to visit the newly established Japanese Embassy.
With little formal education and zero connections with anyone that could put him in touch with the president, Yuet Foh made full use of the only quality he had – tenacity. He stood outside the gates of the Japanese embassy, braving the blazing tropical sun and waited for the president to come out.
His resolute patience was rewarded when the president granted him a brief audience. Yuet Foh could not speak Japanese or English but somehow he was able to communicate his message across, that he was interested in securing the franchise to sell Datsun cars in this young country.
“Just give me a chance to sell a few cars and I will show you what I can do,” said Yuet Foh to the president.
His tenacity impressed the president and soon the first shipment of Datsun models, as Nissan’s cars were known then, were on their way to Malaya, as our country was known then.
Yuet Foh roped in his elder brother Kim Hor and together, they established Tan Chong & Sons Motor Company in 1957 and soon began selling the first Japanese cars in the country, mostly 1200DX sedans.
The Tan brothers would sell Datsuns by carrying brochures on their bicycles. They were Malaysia’s early ‘travelling salesman.’
Yuet Foh passed away in 1985, at the age of 61. He is succeeded by his son Dato’ Tan Heng Chew, President of the Tan Chong group’s flagship holding company Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd, which owns Edaran Tan Chong Motor – the distributor of Nissan vehicles in Malaysia, as well as TC Euro Cars - the distributor of Renault cars in Malaysia.
Kim Hor was the Executive Chairman of Wawasan TKH Holdings Bhd., which was formed following a fallout with Yuet Foh’s children. After a long drawn legal battle that went on from 2001 to 2009, the dispute was settled out of court, with the Tan Chong group splitting into Tan Chong Motor Holdings and Tan Chong International Limited. The Hong Kong listed Tan Chong International Limited owns Motor Image, which distributes Subaru vehicles in South East Asia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, as well as Tan Chong Motor, the distributor of Nissan vehicles in Singapore.
Kim Hor’s son Dato' Tan Boon Pun and Dato' Tan Hoe Pin and Dr. Tan Ban Leong now runs Warisan TKH Holdings.