SKODA agent Harvest Automobiles, owned by the family of multimillionaire businessman Peter Kwee, has been served a winding-up petition.
It is the first authorised new car agent to fall victim to the depressed car market and the second Skoda agent here to face financial trouble.
The petition was filed by Sime Darby Property - an arm of the Malaysian conglomerate - in the High Court on Oct 28, through its lawyers Drew & Napier.
Harvest managing director Daniel Au told The Straits Times the petition arose from a "dispute" over rental. Harvest had rented space at an Alexandra Road facility owned by Sime Darby. It had apparently moved out but left behind some equipment.
"They asked us to move the equipment out or they would charge us double the rental," Mr Au said. He did not elaborate but gave an assurance it will be "business as usual" at the dealership after a new company, Harvest Automobiles (MB), was formed.
Checks with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority revealed that the new entity was registered on Wednesday. Its sole proprietor is Ms Karen Kwee - Mr Kwee's daughter and Mr Au's wife.
Another company, Harvest Automobiles Rental & Leasing, registered in October 2010, is owned by the couple.
Both companies are housed in 3 Leng Kee Road, owned by Mr Kwee. Earlier this year, the property and car tycoon sold his Pines country club to developer Oxley Holdings for $318 million. He bought it for about $100 million 10 years ago.
Mr Au said the winding up is of no concern to consumers because "we've not been selling any cars for some time". He added the industry is reeling from a dwindling supply of certificates of entitlement (COEs), tighter credit measures and heftier taxes introduced in February.
A number of used car dealers shut down this year. In 2002, Skoda dealer JTA buckled amid spiralling COE prices, leaving a group of customers in the lurch.
Mr Au was close to being declared bankrupt when he failed to repay a personal loan this year. He managed to stave that off by working out an instalment payment scheme with the lender.
Sime Darby said it could not comment as court proceedings are ongoing.
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