By Samuel Ee
SINGAPORE - The number of parallel imported cars continues to dwindle amid the COE supply crunch, with total registrations of 789 units in the first half of 2012, or a 43.8 per cent drop from the same period last year.
In line with successive reductions in certificate of entitlement quotas, the parallel import (PI) trade has been slowing rapidly since 2008. But as in the general official import market, the model mix of PI cars changes as the COE premiums rise.
As a total proportion of the overall market in H1, PI sales of 789 cars accounted for 5.4 per cent of the total 14,666 new cars registered in Singapore from January to June this year.
This is even lower than the 8.3 per cent market share that the PI industry eked out in 2011 - the lowest in a decade - and a far cry from the boom years not too long ago.
The trade had hit a high in 2008, when 23,142 grey imports were registered here, or 23.8 per cent of the total 97,348 new cars registered that year.
But today, where once mass-market makes Toyota and Honda ruled the grey import market, it is luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz which are the bestsellers.
Overall, BMW is Singapore's top make with 2,647 new cars registered from January to June 2012, data released by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) showed. Of these, 281 were parallel imports
Mercedes-Benz is the runner-up in H1 2012 with 2,427 new registrations, of which 194 units were collectively sold by parallel importers.
Toyota, the former Japanese juggernaut that previously dominated the market here, remains in third place overall, with 2,050 registrations in the first six months. Of these, 143 were PI units.
Still, Toyota appears to have managed its slide relatively well compared with another former favourite, Honda.
In the PI market, the latter only managed to garner 29 units in the first half and lags premium German makes Audi (45) and Porsche (37).
Interestingly, super-luxury marques, such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Maserati, and Ferrari, are outselling a volume Japanese make like Nissan in the grey market, although it is likely that a significant proportion of these high-end parallel imports are pre-owned cars under three years of age.
This article was first published in The Business Times.