Mad about cars

Mad about cars
Mr Karsono Kwee’s collection includes a few Porsches, a 1964 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, a 1967 Saab 9-2 and three bikes.

The 66-year-old's Trans Eurokars group, with multi-franchise dealerships in Singapore and Indonesia, rakes in an annual turnover of nearly $500 million. Brands in his stable include Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Mini and Mazda in Singapore, and Porsche, BMW and Mazda in Indonesia.

Observers often attribute his three-decade track record in an infamously competitive industry to his business acumen and hands-on approach to running his business.

But close associates will know that his success has as much to do with his love of cars.

Mr Kwee remembers his first set of wheels - a Vespa scooter which he rode in his teens in Surabaya, Indonesia, where he grew up.

His first car was a used Opel Rekord, which he bought when he was 20; and his first brand new car was a Volkswagen Beetle he acquired when he was 22.

But it was not until he came to Singapore a year later that "my car fever started".

He saw a green Porsche 911 Targa cruising by the old Paya Lebar Airport, and fell in love with it. The year was 1971.

In 1977, he bought his first Porsche, a 924, followed swiftly by a 911 and then a 928, which was then the flagship model.

In 1982, he bought his first Rolls-Royce, a Silver Spirit.

Then, in 1985, when the previous Porsche agent in Singapore went into financial difficulties, Mr Kwee, who was then in the electronics import-and- export business, made a pitch for the franchise, along with big players such as Cycle & Carriage.

The German manufacturer must have sensed his passion, and the rest is pretty much history.

Today, Mr Kwee's "car fever" is seen in an impressive collection of 25 to 30 cars and half a dozen motorcycles.

The number of cars in his collection varies because he periodically sells off a few and acquires a few more. For instance, his most recent addition is the Porsche Macan compact SUV.

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