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2014 a slow year for super fast, ultra-luxury cars

Loan, property curbs could make 2015 another quiet year
Monday, January 19, 2015 - 05:50

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Registration numbers for ultra-luxury limousines and super sports cars hit a speed bump last year, plunging more than 70 per cent

Singapore

2014 was a slow year for some very fast cars.

Registration numbers for ultra-luxury limousines and super sports cars hit a speed bump last year, plunging more than 70 per cent, and some dealers fear this could be the new normal unless there are policy changes or the economy picks up.

Aston Martin suffered the biggest hit; sales dived 78 per cent to just four new units registered (see table). It was followed by Rolls-Royce, which sank 67 per cent to 19 units.

This is despite new car registrations increasing 28.7 per cent to 28,932 last year amid rising interest in mass market cars.

At the Singapore Motorshow 2015, more than 50,000 visitors were said to have attended the four-day event which ended on Sunday.

Volume brands such as Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota have been enjoying stronger sales as owners of ageing cars begin to upgrade their rides, while luxury make Mercedes-Benz is also popular for its COE Category A models, which have engines that are below 1,600cc and 130 hp.

At the opposite end of the price spectrum though, Ferrari was the best-seller among supercar makes. The Italian prancing horse posted relatively better numbers in 2014 with 31 units registered, or a 55 per cent dip.

"In addition to its branding, Ferrari is also seen as having stronger products," said the managing director of a used car dealership. "More owners are holding on to their Ferraris for longer. You won't find many used 458s for sale."

But Ferrari's gains in 2014 were also boosted by traditional rival Lamborghini's lack of an entry-level model with the discontinuation of the Gallardo. But now that its Huracan replacement has been arriving since Q4 last year, the balance should change in 2015. In this rarefied segment, however, it is Bentley that is the envy of the industry. It was the top super luxury make in 2014 based on volume and the one with the smallest drop in market share. One of the reasons is the availability of a smaller four-litre V8 engine to complement its flagship six-litre W12 unit. With its Continental GT model starting from about S$730,000, it is seen as relatively more affordable than the competition while still possessing strong brand appeal.

So will 2015 turn out to be an equally bleak year for supercars and ultra-luxury limos?

"Unless the loan or property curbs are lifted, I don't see growth," said the managing director of a supercar brand. Vehicle financing restrictions and a progressive Additional Registration Fee structure introduced in February 2013 are still in force.

He added: "Interest charges for vehicle finance are not high, but many buyers feel the compounded taxation is unnecessary, so we have to wait for a change in policy before things will improve for us.''

Until then, "no buyers are coming through the system", said the managing director. "And it's the same pool of buyers."

Another worry is the slowing economy. The sales director of a super luxury brand said that this means everyone in the industry will have to work out how to tide over this period.

"It will be an even harder sell. These are all fun cars we are talking about. If you have to pay so much, then you may rather take the money to invest somewhere else.''

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