Strong flag off in January for some car brands

SOME car brands are off to a very good start in 2017, with the new year spike in registrations coming from both ends of the price spectrum.

Their January numbers are more than proportionately higher than what was recorded for last year.

One example is Opel. Alpine Group, the authorised distributor of the German brand, put 64 new passenger models on the road last month, or more than a quarter of its entire 2016 sales (see table).

Sales increase from each brand.
Photo: LTA

The numbers were boosted by the new Opel Astra, which debuted new 1.0- and 1.4-litre petrol engines in the second half of last year, attractively priced at below S$100,000.

Alpine's sales director David Pang offered a number of reasons for Opel's performance, but said chief among them are the product, its features and aftersales.

"Customers are able to see the on-going revival that is happening at Opel with the smooth introduction of new models, including the Adam and Mokka X. It shows the range and depth of our product line, and this builds confidence."

Other than stronger sales, there are a few reasons for the January spike in number of registrations.

The commonly cited one is the arrival of long-awaited stocks, which bunches up registrations in a particular month.

Then there are some owners who prefer a certain registration date.

Read also: Super-luxury car brands slow down

"When it's time to sell it, a car registered in 2017 sounds newer than a car registered in 2016," said the sales manager of a luxury brand.

Another is the festive-season factor; customers tend to bring forward the registration so they can enter the Chinese New Year with a new car.

Another brand that surged ahead in January is Seat. The Spanish subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group was re-launched in Singapore by Vertex Euro Motors last October, after having exited the local market 13 years earlier.

Because of its low base last year, Seat's January registrations of 25 cars were nearly 180 per cent of its 2016 total of 14 units.

Vertex sales and marketing manager Jon Tan said the main shipment of cars arrived in November. He added: "New-car registrations started only in December, with the bulk of the sales registered in January 2017, as most of the car buyers were hoping to take delivery of the car before the CNY."

Mercedes-Benz presents a more accurate picture of a brand that had above-average sales. The German luxury manufacturer counted 907 new units in the first month of 2017, or 14.1 per cent of the 6,444 units for the whole of 2016.

Other premium makes that enjoyed stronger-than-usual registrations in January were Ferrari, with nine cars or a quarter of its 2016 tally, Rolls-Royce with three cars (15.8 per cent of 2016's total), and Bentley with eight cars (15.1 per cent).

But the rosy numbers can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

The sales manager said good results early in the year can increase the pressure to perform in the remaining months.

"If your boss uses the January data to extrapolate full-year sales at 12 times that number, then you will be in trouble."

This article was first published on Feb 15 , 2017.
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