No strong takers yet for Skoda's Singapore franchise after previous agent went bust

Skoda dealership, anyone? No one has taken over the Czech brand's Singapore franchise after its previous agent, Harvest Automobiles, went bust last year - the third Skoda agency to have failed here.

The Straits Times understands that the only motor company to have expressed strong interest is Vertex Automobiles, the Chery dealer owned by egg trader Lian Fong.

But Skoda, which is owned by Volkswagen Group, is hoping a stronger party can take over.

It has been courting Trans Eurokars, a multi-francise group owned by businessman Karsono Kwee. Among its brands are Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Mini and Mazda.

Mr Kwee said Skoda as well as Seat - another VW-owned brand - have approached him to represent them here.

"We are considering," he said. "The pricing must be right."

Skodas are seen as a budget alternative to Volkswagens, but they often cost the same here.

Harvest Automobiles, which was served a winding up petition last December, pointed out that the open-market value (OMV, or approximate cost price) of a Skoda is sometimes higher than that of an equivalent VW model.

A lower OMV translates to a lower selling price, as most car taxes are based on the OMV.

Vertex Automobiles, however, seems optimistic. It is understood to be promising Skoda sales of 500 cars a year - equivalent to the current Skoda population in Singapore.

The best year for the brand was 2010, when it sold 105 cars, but last year it sold just eight.

Vertex - which has not sold a single Chery since last year - could not be reached for comment.

Manufacturer Skoda Auto declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen Singapore said it has taken over the maintenance and warranty of Skodas here. It added that it has no plans to take over the retail business.

There are about 500 Skoda cars and 80 Skoda taxis here.

christan@sph.com.sg

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