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SINGAPORE MOTORSHOW

Singapore Motorshow crosses over

Crossovers and sport utility vehicles are supplanting saloons, reflecting changing global tastes.

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Mazda launched two SUVs: the CX-30, a sporty crossover aimed at drivers who want the space of an SUV mixed with the style of a coupe, and the CX-8, a mid-sized SUV with seven seats.

Singapore

THE Singapore Motorshow opened its doors to the public at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre yesterday, with more than 20 new models meeting the car buying public for the first time.

The four-day event has expanded this year, with additional space needed to accommodate more participating brands.

"As we enter our sixth year, we are still growing, with two halls and more exhibitors. The interest shows that we are able to continue to draw visitors to the Singapore Motorshow, which is the largest and most popular automotive event in Singapore. This keeps us going, year after year," Glenn Tan, president of the Motor Traders Association of Singapore, told The Business Times.

Five new brands are on board this year, with China's BYD and Britain's MG and Lotus entering the show for the first time, France's Renault making a comeback after a two-year break, and Harley-Davidson showcasing its motorcycles at the Motorshow.

But if motor shows reflect buyers' tastes, then the previews and launches at Suntec revealed that Singapore is rapidly becoming a crossover or sport utility vehicle (SUV) market.

BMW, Toyota and Volvo pulled the covers off new four-door models, but were firmly in the minority.

In contrast, Mazda launched two SUVs by itself: the CX-30, a sporty crossover aimed at drivers who want the space of an SUV mixed with the style of a coupe, and the CX-8, a mid-sized SUV with seven seats.

Other brands that unveiled crossover cars or SUVs but not saloons were Audi, Kia, Land Rover, Maserati, MG, Mini, Porsche, Subaru and Volkswagen.

"I think SUVs are becoming more and more important for Mazda, and also for Singapore," said Steven Teo, the managing director of Mazda operations for the brand's importer, Trans Eurokars.

The two new cars bring the number of SUVs in Mazda's model lineup here to five. Their launch reflects how important it is today for a car brand to offer not just one crossover, but several.

Mazda created the CX-30 precisely to fill a niche between two of its SUV models. "It caters to the segment between the CX-3 and CX-5, and hopefully a bit wider to some sedan upgraders," said Mr Teo.

But while crossovers outsell regular cars in some markets, the same can't be said for Singapore. Globally, Mazda's best-seller is its CX-5 crossover, but here the four-door Mazda 3 is tops.

Mr Teo said more than 60 per cent of Mazda sales in Singapore are still accounted for by saloons, but the CX-30's launch could nudge the figure closer to 50-50. "The sedan is still more popular, but I can see over the years the SUV market share has been increasing," he said.

If the new models at the Singapore Motorshow are anything to go by, the typical four-door car could be headed for the last chance saloon here.