SINGAPORE - Mercedes-Benz has emerged as Singapore’s best-selling car brand, overtaking long-time winner Toyota and arch-rival BMW for the first time in several years.
This is believed to be the first time the German marque – with its most saleable models costing in excess of $250,000 – has clinched the top sales spot here. The closest it came was in 1995, when it trailed Toyota by only 21 cars.
According to new car registration figures just released by the Land Transport Authority, the top 10 best-selling brands of 2022 also include newcomer Tesla. The American electric vehicle brand emerged sixth in the sales race after barely two years of delivering its first cars from an official sales channel here.
BMW skidded to third place in a year which saw the German company appointing a second dealer in Singapore.
The annual sales tally separates sales made by authorised agents and those by parallel importers whose numbers are already tallied in overseas markets. Mercedes led with 4,336 cars, followed by Toyota with 3,997 and BMW with 3,626.
Mercedes-Benz Singapore president Claudius Steinhoff said: “This is a strong motivation for us to continue focusing on the best customer experience in 2023 – excite with new products, services and experiences with a strong focus on the electrification of our portfolio.”
On account of a smaller supply of certificates of entitlement (COEs), a total of 30,939 new cars were put on the road in 2022, down from 45,442 in 2021. Six out of the top 10 best-selling brands saw their market share shrinking in 2022. Among gainers, Mercedes saw the biggest growth of 4.7 percentage points.
With a tighter supply of COEs, premiums more than doubled from the year before to around $80,000 for smaller, less powerful cars and around $110,000 for bigger, more powerful models.
In such a market, parallel importers usually do not fare well, as they traditionally do not have as much profit margin or financial muscle to compete with authorised agents, many of which are backed by manufacturers.
Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor group Prime, which also sells parallel imported cars, said a smaller COE supply and high COE prices are the usual reasons. But there is another major factor this time: “One of the biggest reasons is the production bottleneck everywhere. I booked a batch of Toyota Alphards in March 2022 – they are only starting to arrive now.”
For the year, there were 6,365 parallel imported cars accounting for 20.6 per cent of total car registrations – down from 10,226 units and 22.5 per cent in 2021.
Mercedes parallel importers bore the brunt of the decline, selling only 926 cars – a fraction of the 2,201 units they sold in 2021. It was this decline which enabled authorised Mercedes agent Cycle & Carriage to overtake arch-rival BMW.
As before, Honda had the highest percentage of parallel imports, which accounted for 75.8 per cent of sales in 2022. Among the bestsellers, Toyota was the second most parallel imported brand with 37.6 per cent, followed by Mercedes with 17.6 per cent.
China’s electric vehicle brand BYD came close to making it to the bestsellers’ list with 786 new cars put on the road, excluding 100 new electric taxis. Taxis are not included in this tally. If taxis were included, BYD would be 2022’s top-selling EV brand.
Associate professor of economics Walter Theseira at the Singapore University of Social Sciences said: “The large discounts in the Chinese market generally reflect the emergence of many Chinese brand EVs with good technology and better value for performance, space, efficiency than Tesla.
“So, if the same happens here, the top brands list could be quite different in 2023.”
National University of Singapore Business School adjunct professor Zafar Momin said: “A luxury brand like Mercedes jumping to the No. 1 spot is testament to the growing affluence in Singapore.
“In fact, premium brands comprise the majority of the volume of the top 10 brands sold in 2022 and this percentage has been creeping up over the years.”
Meanwhile, ultra-luxury brand sales dipped slightly from 360 cars in 2021 to 348 cars in 2022. These are cars from Aston Martin, Bentley, Lamborghini, Ferrari, McLaren and Rolls-Royce. However, their combined market share grew to 1.1 per cent, up from 0.8 per cent in 2021.