The period immediately after the Chinese New Year break was filled with a slew of automotive events by car makers and also a hike in vehicle buying by consumers. This sent COE prices rising for four consecutive rounds, before they eased off some in the latest COE tender last week.
There was a fall in COE prices across all categories except for cars above 1,600cc, which was not surprising as this segment has been more resistant to fluctuating market and economic conditions. Terming it a “market correction”, the local motor trade has differing forward-looking opinions — some players are predicting a bigger price correction, while others think that COE prices will stabilise at a high level due to limited supply.
2011 had been a tough year for the automotive market, but this year car makers have been showing confidence in their respective brands and products by holding new car and showroom launches over the past month.
Here’s a look at various recent automotive events:
2 February — Launch of the new Citroen DS4
This year is the fifth year that Cycle & Carriage France has retailed the Citroen brand in Singapore. The DS line was brought into Singapore with the objective of bringing the Citroen brand to a different group of customers and this new DS4 is the second member of the DS family. Plans are in place to bring the DS5 in at the end of the year.
“In the short time we have been in Singapore, we have successfully turned the Citroen brand around, increased consumer awareness and also brand presence in Singapore. Last year was tough but we managed to perform relatively well — we grew Citroen’s market share by 0.3 per cent amid shrinking COE quota and sky-high car prices. We also achieved high customer retention, as high as 85 per cent for our aftersales,” said Alvyn Ang, director of operations at Cycle & Carriage, a local motor vehicle business that deals with retail, distribution and provision of aftersales services for a few car brands.
6 February — Sharing of future plans for Lexus in Singapore
Japanese luxury car brand Lexus was launched in Singapore two decades ago and 2012 will be a significant change for the brand, both locally and globally. Over a media breakfast session, Lexus shared its vision and plans for the future. Kazuo Ohara, global chief of Lexus flew in specially for this event, sharing Lexus’ new direction of ‘Progessive Luxury’, basically retaining a sporting edge but remaining kind to the environment. Managing director of Borneo Motors Singapore (local representative of Toyota and Lexus) Koh Ching Hong elaborated on the company’s plans to bring the Lexus ownership experience to higher levels with their new showroom and customer care programme.
8 February — Launch of the new Audi A6 Avant
Aiming to set the trend in the premium station wagon category in Singapore, the new Audi A6 Avant extends the A6 success story and Audi Singapore is confident of this model. “The Avant bodystyle is never just about practical utility but the combination of an expressive design statement that carries the premium quality that defines all Audi products. Given the extremely positive reception we had with the new Audi A6 sedan, I’m confident that this new Audi A6 Avant will once again change the game in the competitive C segment,” said Reinhold Carl, managing director of Audi Singapore.
8 February — BMW M announced record sales in Singapore for 2011
The first exclusive BMW M dealer in the world, Munich Automobiles, set an entirely new sales record in 2011 since BMW M cars were first sold in Singapore more than a decade ago. 2011 saw a sale of 126 BMW M units in Singapore, including the BMW 1 Series M Coupé, BMW M3 GTS, BMW M3 saloon, coupé and convertible, and the BMW X5 M and BMW X6 M. The first launch from BMW M in 2012 was the M5 earlier in the year.
“Munich Automobiles started the year with the launch of the new BMW M5 and more than 20 units have been sold since its arrival in Singapore. We are confident that the new M5 will be a clear winner for the high-performance car segment in 2012,” said Joel Chang, executive director of Munich Automobiles.
9 February — Re-introduction of Mazda 3 and 5
Taking over the sole distributorship of Mazda cars in Singapore last November, Eurokars Group of Companies (that also represents Porsche, Saab, Rolls-Royce and MINI in Singapore) re-introduced the Mazda 3 and 5 in response to numerous enquiries from customers, as part of their plan to enhance the brand image and awareness of Mazda in Singapore.
“2012 is a very exciting year for Mazda as we look forward to providing Mazda customers with world-class products and service. Something else to look forward to in 2012 would be the arrival of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology to Singapore in the form of the 2012 CX-5 in the first half of this year,” said Karsono Kwee, executive chairman of Eurokars Group of Companies.
10 February — Official opening ceremony of the new Infiniti showroom
The newest Japanese luxury performance automotive brand in town is Infiniti, represented by local car distributor Wearnes Automotive. Infiniti’s flagship 9,900 square-feet sales and service facility at 45 Leng Kee Road was officially opened on 10 February, along with the brand’s local model offerings of the FX37/50 crossovers, M37 sedan and G37 convertible. Currently sold in 36 countries, Infiniti’s entry into Singapore is part of the brand’s global expansion plan over the next two years and the first full-year sales in Singapore are expected to reach 200 units.
“Demand for luxury cars has grown rapidly in Southeast Asia in recent years, driven by several years of strong economic growth and the emergence of upwardly mobile consumers, and in Singapore, demand for premium cars in Singapore continues to rise,” said Toru Saito, corporate vice president of Infiniti.
Andre Roy, group managing director of Wearnes Automotive added, “As the Infiniti brand is new in Singapore, it will naturally take time to get established. In the short term, we will not be focusing on the volume. Our main priority will be to establish the brand in Singapore and to provide exceptional ownership experience and service quality to our customers.”
An exciting bit about Infiniti is their appointment of Formula One double world champion, Sebastian Vettel as their first ever global brand ambassador and also their partnership with Red Bull Racing. This allows Infiniti to extend exclusive lifestyle privileges such as access to the Formula One Red Bull Racing Team Paddock Club and Energy Stations globally. Customers will also be able to watch Formula One races ‘live’ at the Infiniti showroom.
10 February — Launch of the new Toyota Prius C hybrid
The future of automobiles is shifting towards a greener direction and brands like Toyota are seeing rises in sales of their petrol-electric hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius. As of 31 December 2011, Toyota had sold about 3.5 million hybrid cars worldwide. With increased demand and continuous innovation, Toyota has managed to lower the costs of manufacturing the Prius and the new Prius C is a result of this enhanced hybrid formula.
Featuring a new and more compact electric motor, the Prius C hybrid is smaller than the Prius — the world’s top-selling hybrid and also the world’s first mass-produced hybrid passenger car that started selling in December 1997 — and has a smaller engine (1.5-litre compared to the Prius’ 1.8-litre). The Prius C is now available in Singapore.
1 March — Launch of Renault ZE with Singapore Power
Renault’s local electric vehicle (EV) model range was launched in conjunction with Singapore Power’s announcement of its Smart Grid and Electro-Mobility project. The Singapore Power project targets to make Singapore EV-ready with a power network to support charging stations across the island. The first batch of the Renault Kangoo ZE (zero emission) vehicles was delivered to Singapore Power and Renault’s ZE range is now available from Wearnes Automotive, starting with the Fluence ZE (95bhp motor and an official driving range of 185 km).
Under the Transport Technology Innovation and Development Scheme (Tides+), the Fluence ZE costs $90,000. This amount consists of only the vehicle cost and a small handling fee as Tides+ provides a tax waiver for the purpose of R&D and the test-bedding of transport technologies. Companies and organisations applying to take part in the EV test-bed programme do not have to pay vehicle taxes such as the Additional Registration Fees (ARF), Certificate of Entitlement (COE), road tax and excise duty.
1 March — Launch of the new BMW 3 Series
The sixth generation of the BMW 3 Series has arrived in Singapore, in the 335i and 328i variants, available at BMW’s authorised distributor in Singapore Performance Motors. “The BMW 3 Series is one of our key volume models and has traditionally been popular amongst our customers. With its new and improved looks, enhanced performance and efficiency, we are confident that it will be well-received,” said Neil Fiorentinos, managing director of BMW Group Asia.
1 March — Volkswagen Singapore announced second showroom
Volkswagen was the first to establish a direct dealership in Singapore in 2007, and today, it remains the only car brand locally to retail directly to customers. In 2011, one in every 10 new cars sold in Singapore was a Volkswagen. The latest from the German company is the upcoming opening of their second showroom and service centre in the second quarter of the year. This new Volkswagen Centre Singapore (MacPherson) will be situated at 1 Kampong Ampat, where the former Mazda showroom was located and closed late last year after the franchise changed hands. Three storeys high with a gross floor area of 93,421 square-feet, the centre will offer complete aftersales support as well as a showroom.
At the moment, Volkswagen operates from one building spanning across 26 Leng Kee Road and 247 Alexandra Road. Due to the rising numbers of Volkswagen cars on the roads, a second facility was necessary. There were 13,223 Volkswagen cars in Singapore at the end of last year and according to the Land Transport Authority, a total of 3,204 Volkswagen cars were registered in 2011, giving them an 11.3 per cent share of the local market.
Upcoming new car launches for Singapore include the Volkswagen CC, Audi A5 and S5, and also the Honda CR-V.
*This was first published on Yahoo!