Towards a land of small luxury cars

Belmont Lay
The Flipside

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society.  To be taken with a pinch of salt and with parental permission advised.  In this post, he talks about exorbitant COE prices.

I spent the last 14 days reading all the news about the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system, the quota cuts and the current sky high car ownership prices.

I was terrified that anything could ever get so pricey.

But the inescapable conclusion is that everything is working just fine when I tried to see things from the perspective of the authorities.

Look, they have implemented a system, stuck to it and so their job is done. That is the hallmark of good management and unwavering belief.

Besides, the price of cars is moving in tandem with the price of housing, so definitely the economy is rosy and they must be doing something right.

This can't all be happening by coincidence, right?

High prices protect the less affluent

Nonetheless, high prices work as good barriers to entry.

They help protect the less affluent from themselves.

You wouldn't want those who cannot afford a car or a house to think they can take up loans that will never be repaid, right?

What's more, a car is not that important. I mean, only 600,000 cars are roaming the roads in Singapore. Why would anyone want something that everyone else has?

Plus, take a look at the price. It now costs $116,000, latest COE included, to purchase a 1600cc and smaller "budget car".

If you're feeling extravagant, a small but premium luxury car (think Mercedes) is barely $20,000 more.

If you can afford it, which will you choose?

That's right, and the figures back this up: premium luxury cars make up 45 per cent of sales in the small car segment today, compared to five years ago, where the figure was barely 0.3 percent!

Therefore, a "budget car" is a misnomer and oxymoron in the first place, especially if it's going to set you back 100 grand.

So what can be better than getting rid of the idea altogether?

Small luxury cars rule the roads

Many people have also commented in the past week that the COE system is manipulated by premium luxury car makers, who are taking advantage of the high COE prices.

They are nudging car buyers to select costlier cars since they are already willingly paying through their noses.

These automobile manufacturers have been launching cars with smaller engines over the past few years to carve out a market share.

If I put myself in the shoes of the authorities, I wouldn't for the life of me be interested in intervening and correcting this issue.

Since we have always been pro-corporation here, I don't want to get in the way of car manufacturers and their creativity.

We should never fix anything that is not broken, and the rules are all intact from the looks of it.

And think about it -- what better way to introduce Singapore to the world by claiming that all car owners drive only continental brands such as Mercedes and Volkswagen!

Good reasons not to own a car

But it's no point constantly toying with people's emotions by constantly pricing cars beyond their reach and then talk about market forces.

We need to reason with them -- let them know the downsides of owning a car in Singapore so they will never get envious.

I was told at a second-hand dealership that a seven-year-old car that was on sale had already been driven around our puny country clocking more than 150,000 kilometres and upwards.

For the record, 150,000 kilometres is approximately four full trips around the Earth.

Yes, the car's previous owner probably did get to do more things in a day, go to more places, meet more friends, take his kids out more often and live a fuller life in general.

But he had to endure wandering around aimlessly looking for parking lots, risking road rage, paying for insurance, getting fined, and zipping past the ERP gantry repeatedly.

Yes, I know you cannot imagine travelling 150,000 kilometres using Singapore's public transport because it is always congested and you feel tired and depressed just thinking about it.

But hey! Look on the bright side.

Despairing about not being able to buy a car shouldn't weigh too heavily on you.

Your inability to buy your own house should effectively take your mind off things.

Belmont Lay is one of the editors of New Nation, an online publication that strives towards reporting real news.