Why not? In fact, it should consider Jaguar and Land Rover too. It would put the country on the global automotive map
Should Singapore buy Aston Martin?

WASN’T it just yesterday that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was sold to BMW, Bentley to Volkswagen, Rover to Shanghai Automotive and MG to Nanjing Automotive?

Now, another bevy of British brands are on the block: Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. Parent company Ford, bleeding billions, is mulling the sale - in part or whole - of these prestige marques to the highest bidder to recoup some cash to keep itself afloat.

The way I see it, potential buyers are limited. Fellow American giant General Motors has got problems of its own. DaimlerChrysler is still trying to make its own marriage work.

Across the big pond, the Europeans are dealing with their own angst. Volkswagen already has a suite of premium marques, Fiat is still a little wobbly and BMW has learnt its lesson that mergers and acquisitions are not as rosy as bankers make them out to be.

Porsche has no reason to acquire, having bought a sizeable stake in VW recently. Renault has got Nissan (and perhaps GM soon). And the PSA Peugeot-Citroen group seems content with keeping things Gallic.

Farther east, big Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda could afford the dowry, but are quite happy being single. If they had believed in cross-cultural unions, they would have snapped up these brands a long time ago – before Ford got to them.

The Koreans, having survived consolidation just a few years ago, are unlikely to be in the suitable frame of mind.

That pretty much leaves the oil-rich Arabs, the cash-rich and privately-owned non-automotive groups (like British heavy machinery maker JCB, which has expressed its interest in Jaguar), and last but not least, the Chinese and Indian carmakers.

Then again, the Indians seem to have their hands full catering to the ballooning domestic market. And the sheiks love to drive these cars, not make them.

Methinks the Chinese have got the yearning and the yuan, as their eagerness in snapping up Rover and MG shows. Lenovo’s record-setting acquisition of IBM’s PC business in 2004 is another clear example. And talk has it that mighty VW was the target of a hostile takeover by a Chinese group before Porsche came to the rescue.

Are the Chinese eyeing Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin? You can bet your spare tyre that they are. You can almost hear the fury of abacus beads colliding as they work out how much the trio are worth.

As much as they have the gumption and the dough, the Chinese should consider one thing carefully: The emotive element that consumers attach to these brands. A car is not a fridge, a TV or a PC, so a Chinese-owned Aston Martin company might just get some folks shaken, not stirred.

Which brings me to the point I have taken too long to make: Singapore should own the threesome.

Singapore is pretty neutral. It has a pretty decent international standing, in a David-Goliath sort of way (better since Sim Wong Hoo whipped Apple). And most crucially, it wants to re-ignite its automotive industry.

Think about it. The move will revive in an instant an industry we abandoned more than 20 years ago. And it will plug us right into the raging regional “Motownisation”. It’s Reinvention 101.

And it will give us that oneupmanship Singaporeans are obssessed with. Thailand may make Toyotas and Hondas, but we have Jaguar. Malaysia may have Proton and Perodua, but we have Aston Martin. Indonesia may have the Kijang, but we have Land Rover.

And you know something else? Our union-labour-management tripartite relations are so strong that our car industry won’t have the one scourge that cripples most major players: strikes.

With our clockwork efficiency and entrenched kiasu-ism, we will roll out new models in 20 months, instead of the industry’s average 30. Our infrastructure, our accessible and deep port, our connectivity, our IT capability et al will give us an edge.

And to make the three marques more competitive against the established German luxe-mobiles here, excise duty need not apply. That’s a $10,000 advantage for a car like the Jaguar S-Type. To entice buyers abroad, we can package the cars with frequent flyer miles on Singapore Airlines.

But can we afford the estimated bill of $9 billion to acquire the three? Going by recent acquisitions by national companies, we can. SingTel paid A$13 billion (S$15.6 billion) for Aussie telco Optus; DBS paid $10 billion for Hong Kong’s Dao Heng Bank; and PSA bought a 20 per cent stake in the port division of Hong Kong’s Hutchison group for $7 billion.

So why not Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover? It’s a huge gamble, but one that will be a sweet way to show our once colonial masters a measure of gratitude.