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PARALLEL imports (PIs) are exploding back on the scene as the certificate of entitlement (COE) quota expands and replacement buyers seek out less expensive models.
A total of 5,036 parallel imports were registered from January to September 2015, or a 306 per cent increase in the number of cars which were not brought in by their authorised distributors.
And in a reflection of the lower COE premium environment, the top six models are all Japanese, with the most popular European entry being the Mercedes-Benz C-Class at No 7.
In previous years when COE premiums were higher and COEs were scarcer, a German luxury model such as the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class would have been the top model or at least in the top three.
Toyota is still the best-selling PI brand with a total of 2,324 units registered in the first nine months. But Honda is catching up. Its year-to-date tally is 2,272 - a sharp contrast from early 2012 or just three-and-a-half years ago when not a single grey import Honda was registered.
The Honda brand is being driven by the Vezel compact crossover, a COE Category A model that has become this year's PI poster boy-car.
In the first nine months, an eye-popping 2,062 units of the Vezel were registered collectively by parallel import dealers, or nearly twice as many of the runner-up model, the Toyota Harrier at 1,191 units.
The Vezel's sporty styling, versatile cabin and most of all, low price, are boosting its popularity, so much so that it alone accounted for 91 per cent of all the grey Hondas registered thus far, as well as 41 per cent of total parallel imports. The Vezel is a Japanese domestic model. Authorised Honda distributor Kah Motor offers the export version called the HR-V but it can cost up to 10 per cent more.
With its strengthening performance, PIs have accounted for 12.9 per cent of the total 38,933 new cars that have been put on the road so far this year.
This is almost double its 6.7 per cent market share at the end of 2014 but still a long way off from its 2008 peak of 23.8 per cent, when a total of some 97,000 new cars were registered in Singapore.
READ MORE: Honda joins Toyota to lead surge in new cars