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Parallel import market down 25%

[SINGAPORE] The parallel import market continues to shrink sharply as luxury models outnumber mass market cars. In the first nine months of 2013, only 883 parallel imported cars were registered, down 25.3 per cent from the same period a year ago.

By comparison, the total number of new cars registered in Singapore from January to September this year fell 19.3 per cent to 17,102 units.

Parallel imports are those cars not brought in by authorised distributors, and dealers of these grey imports have been hurt badly since the COE quota began shrinking and COE premiums started escalating.

The most popular brand of grey imports is Toyota, which returned to the No 1 spot in mid-2013 after being displaced by German luxury makes BMW and Mercedes-Benz in 2011 and 2012. Japan's biggest carmaker registered a total of 334 units in the first nine months of this year (see table).

Two Toyota models were also the top two PI models. The Estima mid-sized MPV racked up top PI sales of 206 units, almost double the bigger Alphard/Vellfire MPV model with a combined 107 units (see table).

But apart from the Toyota marque, the rest of the top five PI makes and the other top 10 PI models were all European and luxury nameplates.

Sports car maker Porsche is the fourth most popular parallel imported brand, with its classic 911 model at No 8 on the PI list with 24 units registered in the first nine months of 2013.

Even more interesting is that the Bentley Continental GT is No 6 with 28 units, and that the ultra-luxury Rolls-Royce Ghost shares the No 10 spot with the Porsche Cayenne.

The large numbers are likely to have been a result of the Feb 25 cooling measures introduced by the government to rein in surging COE premiums.

Eight months ago, a new tiered ARF or additional registration fee structure was announced, along with vehicle financing restrictions. What followed was a flurry of parallel and self-imports in a bid to avoid the higher progressive taxes and loan curbs.