Car dealer took 'more than $3m in deposits'

97 people claim to be 'victims' of parallel importer Volks Auto

Car buyers claim they have lost more than $3 million to Volks Auto after paying deposits for imported models that never arrived.

As of 4pm yesterday, there were 97 "victims" in a list compiled by Mr K.K. Lo, who is leading the group of disgruntled customers. The average amount they had paid in deposits was $20,000 to $30,000.

Volks Auto owner Alvin Loo, 36, has gone missing and the dealership's doors have been shut since last Saturday when the first group of buyers made their police report. Customers said his phone had an overseas ringtone when they called him last Thursday, and the unanswered calls led to voicemail messages from Hong Kong and later China.

Calls to his mobile number yesterday could not be connected.

According to a neighbour, Mr Loo's house in Jalan Melor has been empty for about two weeks. He used his home address to register his business. Retiree Eric Soh told The Straits Times that three or four men and a woman moved into the bungalow three months ago. Two weeks ago, he saw lorries arriving to take away furniture and he has not seen any movement in the house since. "They kept to themselves and never said hi," he said.

Parallel importers, such as Volks Auto, purchase cars from dealers overseas and sell them in the local market for a profit, typically at prices lower than authorised dealers'.

Another parallel importer, Swift Garage, has offered to sell cars to Volks Auto's customers at "close to cost price" and without a deposit. Swift Garage partner Lee Yee Theng said he wants to redeem confidence in the parallel import industry, adding he had not received any inquiry calls since the news about Volks Auto broke on Monday.

kxinghui@sph.com.sg