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WOULD you loan your brand-new car to a stranger for a few weeks? Maybe not, but what if you were paid tens of thousands of dollars?
At least 35 Volkswagen customers here were willing to take just such a deal by buying cars used in this week's Interpol World 2017. The conference, which closed yesterday, used a fleet of Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan and Passat models to ferry event delegates around. Their owners will be collecting their nearly-new cars in two weeks.
Strictly speaking, however, such "event cars" aren't used cars. The VWs were sold before the event, registered in their customers' names, and then effectively loaned to Interpol World's organisers. "These cars were sold by our new car division," says a spokesperson for Volkswagen Group Singapore.
Car dealers often partner with event organisers to provide "official cars". In May, for example, BMW made 186 cars available for use at the International Maritime Defence Exhibition. And at March's HSBC Women's Champions golf tournament, Wearnes Automotive provided 35 Jaguar XJ limousines to the organisers.
Arrangements like these give event organisers a prestigious way to transport VIPs, while helping car companies to move stock. Since "official cars" are limited in number, they can be aggressively discounted in price without impacting the value of a brand's cars.
It's also partly a PR exercise. "It's about having an association with a prestigious event," says a spokesperson for Wearnes.
For their part, customers get a bargain. The VWs used at Interpol World were sold at a discount of S$21,000 and S$23,500 for Sportsvans and Passats respectively.
The ex-HSBC Jaguars were around S$15,000 cheaper than the full retail price. Each car was used prior to registration.
"We were able to get a special purpose licence from the Land Transport Authority. The cars could be driven on special plates that read 'HSBC1' and so on," says the spokesperson. That made its customers the first registered owners of the cars.
But such cars do come with risks. They could sustain damage while being used (accidents do happen, after all) or undergo slight wear-and-tear. Volkswagen requires customers to sign an indemnity form; it clarifies that the cars may be delivered with light scratches or be involved in an accident, in which case they will be repaired before delivery.
Naturally, the cars will have undergone some days' use, though dealers impose a limit on how much they can be driven. Jaguar and VW say they cap mileage to 2,500km and 3,000km respectively, but it's rare to see even 1,000km on the cars after an event.
"These were lightly-used cars, and used with care. They chauffeured VIPs around. It's not like they were used for off-roading or something crazy," says the Wearnes spokesperson about the HSBC Jaguars.
Given that "event cars" are in short supply, how can interested customers score themselves the chance to buy one? The best way is to ask. The Volkswagen spokesperson says bargain hunters can register their interest with a sales executive in the showroom, and become what the car trade calls a "warm lead" - these are prospective buyers waiting for an incentive to sign on the dotted line, and often a special promo is the nudge they need.
It helps, too, to have a mindset that your next car doesn't have to be brand-new. The first drive may have gone to someone else, but if the discount is large enough, the last laugh would be yours.