Luxury car sales stall on higher tax, loan curb

The tiered ARF has pushed the cost of cars like the Ferrari 458 to about $1 million - up from around $800,000. Sales in the second half of last year plunged by 92 per cent for Ferrari; 91 per cent for Rolls-Royce; 88 per cent for Aston Martin; a
The tiered ARF has pushed the cost of cars like the Ferrari 458 to about $1 million - up from around $800,000. Sales in the second half of last year plunged by 92 per cent for Ferrari; 91 per cent for Rolls-Royce; 88 per cent for Aston Martin; and 85 per cent for Lamborghini. -- PHOTO: FERRARI

Tiered ARF, borrowing cap blamed as luxury makes tumble by over 80%

Measures to cool the car market introduced in last year's Budget have hit luxury brands the hardest, with some reporting a sales drop of more than 90 per cent in the second half of last year.

Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and Lamborghini were among the most affected.

Sales in the second half of the year plunged by 92 per cent for Ferrari; 91 per cent for Rolls-Royce; 88 per cent for Aston Martin; and 85 per cent for Lamborghini.

"It was a disaster in the second half," said Mr Andre Roy, chief executive of Wearnes Automotive, which represents brands like Bentley, Jaguar and McLaren. "If this was meant to slow down the sales of supercars, it has worked."

The slump came on the back of two measures that rocked the industry: a tiered Additional Registration Fee (ARF) that raised the cost of a high-end car by as much as $450,000; and a loan curb that capped borrowing at 50 per cent of a car's purchase price, to be repaid in five years.

Eurokars Group executive chairman Karsono Kwee, whose company represents Porsche and Rolls-Royce, said the tiered ARF is affecting the high-end of the market, while the middle market too has been hit by the loan curb.

"Buyers can't accept the suddenness of the increase," he said.

Ferrari agent Ital Auto marketing manager Nick Syn said: "It's not a question of ability to pay but a question of getting used to the new prices."

The tiered ARF has pushed the cost of cars like the Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari 458 and McLaren 12C to about $1 million - up from about $800,000. A Rolls-Royce Phantom now costs close to $2 million - up from $1.6 million. Despite a shrinking car market on the back of fewer certificates of entitlement in recent years, high-end brands had been chalking up almost consecutive year-on-year growth since 2006 - until last year.

Nanyang Business School lecturer Zafar Momin, a former automotive expert with the Boston Consulting Group, said other factors could have affected the market, such as the weaker stock and property markets and looming uncertainties faced by businesses.

"While buyers of these luxury cars are not that price-sensitive, the uncertainty and risk surrounding the future returns and liquidity of their business investments may lead them to avoid splurging," he said, adding: "This phenomenon could be temporary."

Industry watchers are unsure when buyers will return but reckon new models will stir interest.

"A new model gives them an excuse to incur additional spending," said Mr Syn.

Mr Roy added: "The interest in a new model outweighs the higher cost - at least that's what we're hoping for."

That may well be the case for the new Lamborghini Huracan. About 40 people have "expressed interest" in the $1.2 million car sold by Lamborghini Singapore.

But Mr Melvin Goh, chief executive of newly-listed parent group EuroSports Global, said it is in the process of "converting these to firm, non-refundable orders". "We should know how many there are in about two weeks," he added.

Lamborghini sales plunged from 20 in the first half of last year to just three in the second.

christan@sph.com.sg

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