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THE Republic's used car market on Thursday received a turbo-boost with the launch of Wheel Deal, a new car-selling concierge service by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), as well as a S$1 million seed funding into local used car marketplace Carro.
A first-in-Singapore service for car sellers (which include companies and government agencies), Wheel Deal works by letting them call, email or SMS to submit their personal and vehicle details. A service representative will then collate a range of quotes from authorised car dealers to present to the seller on the same day, and can even arrange for him to meet the car dealer and close the deal.
"Wheel Deal aims to be a one-stop platform that provides convenience, trust and transparency in the car trade," said Tan Ooi Boon, SPH's deputy head of marketing.
He told BT: "We found that not every car owner is familiar with the used car market. Most trade in their cars when they buy a new one, and usually only deal with one dealer. Wheel Deal seeks to provide greater choice by offering the seller bids from a range of dealers to get them the best deal."
At least six authorised dealers, including 99 Motors Trading and CarTimes Automobile, have joined the Wheel Deal network. That these dealers are existing, long-time advertising clients of SPH makes them reputable and credible partners, said Mr Tan.
Asked if there are plans for a mobile app, he said the team has not ruled that out, but Wheel Deal's concierge service offers the "human touch" that online platforms may not be able to provide.
Since Wheel Deal's soft launch in October, some S$540,000 worth of 20 used cars have been sold. Of these, up to 14 cars were bought by 99 Motors. Said managing director Jeremy Tang: "Wheel Deal connects us car dealers to the serious and sincere sellers - versus car owners who come to us just to know the market price."
It will also potentially reduce car dealers' newspaper advertising costs, which are about S$50 per listing daily, Mr Tang added. "Wheel Deal is a sign of how SPH is using its strength in the newspaper business to evolve and cater to the changing needs of its readers and advertisers."
Meanwhile, Carro, a startup that connects used car sellers and buyers directly through its online platform - cutting out dealers - has raised over S$1 million from angel investors.
Unlike Wheel Deal which emphasises the human touch, Carro seeks to minimise manpower in the car trade, having developed an algorithm to determine the best offer price for sellers and a visualisation engine to help buyers make purchasing decisions.
While Carro earns through loan commission - by linking buyers to their preferred banks and financial institutions - Wheel Deal earns a 1.5 per cent cut from dealers on every sale.
Carro also guarantees it will buy the car from the seller - at the offer price - if there are no takers after listing for 30 days. It has since its launch in July certified over 100 vehicles and is "on track" to hit over S$10 million in run rate gross merchandise value.
On the competition, Carro's director Aaron Tan said: "Wheel Deal will in fact help fuel Carro's growth! For those who have sold their cars (on Wheel Deal), they will now need to buy a car. The good thing is - now they are not at the mercy of the dealers; they can look at alternative sources such as Carro."
Sellers wise, Wheel Deal will appeal to those who prefer to sell to car dealers while Carro will appeal to those who wish to sell directly to buyers, noted Mr Tan. His startup is now looking to raise another S$2-3 million for regionalisation.
sgCarMart, which SPH acquired in 2013 and which operates the popular used car bidding platform Quotz, is aware of the new competition. Said director Vincent Tan: "This is great for the consumer as it means more choices. But Quotz's unique offering continues to be a transparent, real-time bidding platform participated by our over 250 partner car dealers, which will therefore guarantee high prices."
Unlike Wheel Deal or Carro, Quotz charges a service fee - of S$107 for a professional survey of the vehicle and conduct of the real-time auction.
Over 68,000 used cars in Singapore reportedly changed hands between January and September this year.