Rising car prices triggered by supply chain issues in a pandemic, geo-political instability in Eastern Europe and rising crude oil prices aren’t sufficient to deter the Singaporean car buyer it seems.
In times of global instability, consumer confidence would naturally take a plunge. Lay-offs, pay cuts and the general cumulative fear of volatile markets means the general public would very much rather have loose cash on hand to deal with any potential financial fallout.
Though it does seem like the average Singaporean car buyer did not get the memo - COE prices continue to rise drastically, seemingly breaking the all-time highs with each new round of bidding.
There’s definitely a sentiment of disdain online, perhaps coming from a very vocal minority. After all, COE prices are only rising as people are still actually buying cars. Could this mindset stem from the fact that the Singaporean car buyer has already been numb to seemingly ridiculous car costs in this country?
Look at it this way, car prices in Singapore remain high even in times of relative certainty, with import taxes and COEs vastly inflating the cost of car ownership. What’s a few extra thousand dollars if you took out a lengthy loan?
Perhaps we also ought to look at the actual price increases of some popular cars, and how much more are you paying for a car in each of its respective classes at this present time, as compared to a similar timeframe a year ago!
Mitsubishi Attrage/Space Star - $27,000 increase ($79,999 in 2021 to $106,999 in April 2022)
Adjust your expectations, for this is no luxury or sports car. In fact, you can’t really benchmark this against your mass-market hatchback or saloon offerings either - the Attrage/Space Star siblings offer car buyers a relatively low barrier of entry to new car ownership.
The cars now cost an extra $27,000 as compared to a similar time frame in 2021. You do not get any extra equipment or refinement for that price, as it goes purely towards paying off higher manufacturing and tax rates.
Shoot for the Attrage if you prefer a more stable and comfortable car. With its dinkier dimensions, an option for sport mode and funkier materials in its cabin, the Space Star does better to appeal to your inner child.
The basic 1.2 litre, three-cylinder 79bhp motor in both cars will certainly not set the world alight, but you’ll appreciate its 20km/l fuel economy rating!
Suzuki Swift Mild Hybrid - $23,000 increase ($96,900 in 2021 to $119,900 in April 2022)
This is the sort of car you’d expect most people to shop for. Priced to compete against other hatchback and saloon offerings from Japan and Korea, Suzuki has opted to load this car with plenty of equipment, to really make it a compelling purchase.
‘Power’ though, isn’t tangible, nor is it a piece of equipment, so you do not expect a lot of oomph for your money. Instead, what you will get is a compact hatchback with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a suite of safety assists and a competent chassis that makes for fun driving if you really want to do so.
It is very much a give and take kind of car. But if you’re on a tight budget and are simply on the hunt for cheap and cheerful hatch, you’d probably already be okay with some give and take. And again, it come packed with enough goodies and personality to justify whatever power and equipment it may lack!
Toyota Camry - $26,000 increase ($172,888 in 2021 to $198,888 in April 2022)
No longer is the Camry the boring obvious choice for the aging family man. With sharp lines, a competent drive train and a Lexus-lite ethos to the design and engineering of this family saloon, it really makes you wonder if similarly sized saloons from a more premium marque are actually worth the not-insignificant premium over this.
The 2.5 litre hybrid power train onboard does have grunt, and the eCVT actually means off-the-line drive is actually tolerable. At speed though, your usual CVT problems do surface, though there is sufficient torque from the electric motor and engine to literally power through the issue.
It drives well too. There’s a sporty flavour to the way the car responds to hard driving, with decent grip and stability, even if you opt to throw the car into corners at the higher echelons of legal speeds. Though the CVT drive train, and the surprisingly capable suspension does prefer you waft along the roads instead.
BMW 318i - $22,000 increase ($236,888 in 2021 to $258,888 in April 2022)
A true staple on our roads, the BMW 318i is an affordable avenue into owning a product from a German marque.
As it stands, the 3-series offerings have yet to be emblazoned with the engorged front grilles that most of the Bavarian automaker’s catalogue seem to now sport (the BMW iX3 seemingly being the only other car that doesn’t have the enlarged kidney grilles).
The most basic 3-series still comes equipped with most, if not all, of the goodies that you’d want in a modern luxury saloon. You have wireless smartphone connectivity, convenience unlocking and even premium Sensatech leather slathered literally everywhere on the inside.
Drive hasn’t been sacrificed too. It may only have 154bhp, but that engine is bolted to a well-sorted chassis, which translates into a responsive experience, in a car that heeds to every pedal touch or steering input without fuss. But when you tame the car down, it becomes dignified and refined, perfectly capable of ushering you away in comfort!
Audi e-Tron - $32,574 increase ($397,901 in 2021 to $430,475 in April 2022)
Perhaps the least mainstream vehicle of the cars mentioned in this article. Audi is quite possibly the first legacy automaker to foray into creating high-powered, luxury EVs. And this experience shows when you are behind the wheel of the Audi e-Tron.
The designers deliberately kept the interior as familiar as possible, employing futuristic car technology in places that you do not frequently interact with.
This allows potential owners to hop into an e-Tron, and not be intimidated by all of the gimmicky technologies that other EV manufacturers seem to be employing en masse.
The 355 bhp of instantaneous power means the e-Tron definitely doesn’t feel like a big SUV, as it can comfortably out-accelerate and out-drive almost anything on the roads. As it is also physically large, other motorists tend to not get in your way. Range, even when you continuously experiment with the wonders of having all the immediate torques on tap, is still decent, at a real-world 260 kilometres!
Will cars be getting any cheaper soon?
Well, no. COE is cyclic, and we are in the midst of an uptrend in COE costs. Pricing will eventually peak, but most experts agree that it may take up to two years before you may see any significant reduction in premiums.
In the same timeframe, OMV costs of new cars will probably fall, as the world returns to a post-pandemic normalcy. As supply chains recover, and factories get back up to speed, it is only logical that demand for sought-after components fall, all leading to reduced costs of car production.
Also, do bear in mind that prices of luxury cars have been driven up as compared to even just 12 months ago as a result of the changes to the ARF structure, in which luxury/sports type cars are further subject to additional taxation.
Therefore, it is very likely that the bulk of new cars will remain costlier than in recent history until at least 2025. The increase in new car prices will also translate into greater demand for used cars. Whilst the values may have gone up, the overall depreciation of these offerings will still be lower than a brand-new unit, so it may actually be wise to consider buying used!
This article was first published in Motorist.