New models of super-luxury cars boost take-up; mass market brands hit by smaller COE supply
Sales of high-end cars soar, but sink for general market Among the six brands with cars mostly in the above-$750,000 price range, three posted higher sales here, according to latest figures from the Land Transport Authority. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

High-end car sales soared to greater heights last year even as the general market slumped on the back of fewer certificates of entitlement (COEs).

Among the six brands with cars mostly in the above-$750,000 price range, three posted higher sales here, according to latest figures from the Land Transport Authority.

McLaren and Lamborghini saw sales more than double last year, while Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chalked up a 24 per cent increase.

Ms Ong Lay Ling, group managing director of multi-franchise motor firm Eurokars, said: "We did well with McLaren because we had a full-year delivery of the new 720S. We will continue to do well this year with the arrival of the 600LT.

"For Rolls-Royce, we had a very positive response to the new Phantom. Likewise, we expect to continue this trend with the Cullinan."

The Cullinan is Rolls-Royce's first sport utility vehicle (SUV).

Lamborghini was the best-selling sports car brand, with 38 units sold. Its growth last year was partly on the back of its Urus SUV, of which 13 units were sold. Arch rival Ferrari, which does not have an SUV yet, was one car behind at 37 units.

Mr Melvin Goh, chief executive of Lamborghini dealer EuroSports Global, said: "It has been a fantastic year for Lamborghini Singapore, especially with the relocation of our showroom to Leng Kee Road and the launch of our first SUV, which has received numerous positive reviews from the media and customers."

In this segment, Bentley was the top-selling brand, although sales fell from 70 units in 2017 to 61 last year.

In total, the six high-end brands accounted for 216 cars sold - 13.1 per cent more than in 2017.

In contrast, the general market shrank because of a smaller supply of COEs - a function of fewer vehicles being taken off the road. COE supply is determined every three months, with each quota hinging on the number of vehicles deregistered in the preceding three months.

Honda pipped long-established front runner Toyota to secure pole position with 15,040 cars sold, 6.1 per cent fewer than in 2017. Toyota delivered 13,817 cars, 27.8 per cent fewer than in the previous year.

These numbers, however, include a sizeable percentage of parallel imports - cars that are sourced from overseas dealers instead of directly from car manufacturers.

Excluding parallel imports, Honda agent Kah Motor said its sales improved from 2017, but would not reveal figures.

Mercedes-Benz, which also has a parallel import segment, was third. Its sales shrank by 10.7 per cent to 7,122 units.

Hyundai's sales rose by more than 70 per cent to reach 6,540 units, making it the fourth best-seller last year, and the brand with the biggest sales improvement of the lot.

Mr Teo Hock Seng, managing director of Hyundai agent Komoco, said its performance was all the more significant because "unlike many other brands, Hyundai does not have any parallel import".

Mazda was fifth, but sales fell by 36.4 per cent to 5,414 units. This was largely because demand from Lion City Rentals had dried up with the exit of its owner Uber.

On the whole, the passenger car market shrank by 12.7 per cent to 80,281 units. Most of the top 10 best-selling brands outperformed the market.

Nanyang Business School adjunct associate professor Zafar Momin said: "Compared to 2017, Japanese carmakers fared poorly in 2018. Toyota, in particular, had a reduction of 5,316 units in sales, while Hyundai notched up a gain of 2,736 units.

"In the mass market car segment, consumers are not particularly brand loyal and choose cars that offer them the best value for money.

"Consequently, the leadership of the segment can switch hands quite easily if a carmaker offers a model with a compelling value proposition like Hyundai Avante currently, or Toyota Altis, Honda Vezel in earlier years."

Prof Momin added: "The number of super-luxury cars on Singapore roads has been rising steadily for the past decade. Since 2008, their car population has risen impressively by four times in the case of Bentley, and two to three times in the case of Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren.

"Given that Singapore's ultra-wealthy population - those with net assets exceeding US$50 million (S$67.6 million) - ranks among the top tier in the world, and it is home to thousands of just plain super-wealthy individuals, it should be no surprise that the sales of super-luxury cars would increase over time, just like other items such as real estate, art, yachts and private jets."