Toyota, Mercedes-Benz are the top two, while BMW climbs into third place with its best performance ever in Singapore, and sedans are clearly toppled by SUVs
SINGAPORE – The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has released figures for new car registrations for the first half of 2021, and while there are no major surprises at the top, it does underscore a shift in car buying habits thanks to hybrids gaining the upper hand in price.
In late 2020, with increased Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) rebates kicking off in 2021, we said hybrids would have the upper hand and the first six months of 2021 prove it without a doubt.
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At the head of the pack is Toyota, the Japanese brand no stranger to being the top-dog in Singapore for years now.
But what’s interesting is how strong it’s gotten: Half a year in, it’s already achieved 70 percent of its total 2020 sales, and increased market share by 17.3 percent to 20 percent. In other words, one in five cars sold in Singapore this year so far, has been a Toyota.
Toyota has been boosted by its range of hybrids, especially SUVs. Out of the 5,171 cars it sold from January to June 2021, 2,851 or 55 percent were electrified vehicles, the vast majority of those being petrol-electric hybrids.
Since its launch in January this year, the Yaris Cross Hybrid SUV has been flying out of showrooms as quickly as it can be stocked. The model is emblematic of the shift away from the previous ‘standard’ car – the petrol sedan – to a new normal for a climate-threatened world. It’s also bolstered by strong sales of the Harrier Hybrid, its midsized, semi-premium SUV, a traditionally popular model now fortified by hybrid tech.
For the second half of 2021 we expect its performance to continue as it’s just launched the Camry Hybrid at a very attractive price point.
“I’d like to congratulate the entire Toyota Singapore team for the great results in the first half of 2021. The three new Toyota hybrid models we have launched this year showed that our product strategy is aligned with the Singapore government’s direction in moving towards cleaner and greener vehicles,’ said Ms Jasmmine Wong, CEO of Inchcape for Greater China and Singapore. Inchcape is the parent company of Toyota and Lexus distributor for Singapore, Borneo Motors.
Because Lexus sales figures are still reported as part of Toyota’s registrations, we’re not 100 percent sure if it’s Toyota or Mercedes that’s king of the hill, but it’s not likely Mercedes is the true #1, as was the case in 2020.
Lexus sold more than 1,000 cars in 2020. Despite lots of hybrid models on sale – such as the Lexus IS 300h which we ranked as one of the best cars in its class – we don’t see that happening over six months, since the gap between Toyota+Lexus and Mercedes is 980 cars.
In any case, Mercedes is in a strong position too: Like Toyota, it’s held onto its slot, increased market share, and looks set to equal or increase sales figures for 2021. In 2021, it’s released more than a few models, but these have been high-visibility, (relatively) low volume ones such as the S-Class luxury limousine, and the EQC electric SUV. The bulk of its sales is still comprised of small luxury cars, such as the A-Class Saloon.
At the head of the pack, it’s BMW that has gained the most in 2021: The German luxury brand enjoyed its best first half bar none, selling 3,100 cars, equal to 70 percent of its total 2020 sales figures of 4,349. It pipped Honda to third place, and raised its market share from 9.78 percent to 12.03 percent.
“This is an amazing achievement for the BMW brand in Singapore,” Christopher Wehner, BMW Asia’s managing director, told CarBuyer. “Thanks to our strong partnership with (dealer) Performance Motors Limited, we brought our customers the latest models, improved our aftersales services, and provided customers with positive experiences that made BMW stand out amongst the crowd. As proof of our hard work and efforts, we welcomed new customers to the brand and also managed to have our best first half ever in Singapore.”
Those results are a welcome going-away present for Mr Wehner, who will return to Germany to take up a senior role at Mini.
Like Mercedes-Benz, the bulk of its sales came from small luxury models powered by petrol, with BMW’s best-sellers being the 2 Series Gran Tourer MPV, and the X1 small SUV. The least expensive BMW of them all here, the 116i, certainly helped make its nameplate another one of BMW’s most popular models. It’s the cheapest BMW, but not lacking on features as our review shows.
Moving forward, we expect BMW to stay on the podium at least, thanks in part to electrification.
In the first half, BMW more than doubled the electrified vehicles it sold in Singapore – 486, compared to 158 for all of 2020. It could have a sleeper hit with the new BMW iX3, a fully electric version of its X3 SUV – and also the least expensive of its model line-up.
As usual, the mid-pack is where we see the fiercest competition for a smaller slice of the pie. The podium sitters combined sold 12,462 cars, or 48 percent of the whole new car market, while the top five brands constitute 65 percent of the total market.
The names are the same with place swapping happening down the line, with the following brands trading places: BMW and Honda, Hyundai and Audi, Nissan and Kia, VW and Mitsubishi.
At these registration numbers, the reasons are less clear. But one important factor is VES, which on paper can add up to a S$30k difference against the competition in 2021. It’s clear that cars with a VES bonus do well, and the Mazda 3 mild-hybrid and the Hyundai Avante both have a VES A2 (S$15k rebate) rating and helped their respective brands.
Finally, while we’re all fighting over Cat A COEs and VES, in the world of ultra-luxury and high-performance things are booming, with numerous brands from that realm already equaling, or close to, their 2020 whole-year numbers.
Ultra-lux took the lead: Bentley sold a jaw-dropping 63 cars, close to its 2020 total of 76. Rolls-Royce sold 49 cars, just five cars shy of its 2020 total. Both brands look dead certain to sell more cars in 2021.
Sports car brands did very well too, though not as well as ultra-luxury ones: Aston Martin sold 17 cars, only 11 cars off its 2020 total of 28. Ferrari and Lamborghini, at 24 and 23 units sold, also look set to equal their 2020 numbers of 44 cars and 42 cars, respectively. English supercar brand McLaren sold fewer cars than the Italians, 16 of them, but equaled its 2020 figure already.
Bolstering the sales of Aston Martin, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce aren’t just their ‘standard’ models, but also SUVs. 15 of the 63 Bentleys registered were the Bentayga SUV.
It’s not just a uniquely Singaporean thing, though. In Europe, demand for Bentley and Rolls-Royce has been so high that buyers have had to get their super-lux cars second hand. Shocking.
There has been lots of place-swapping in the Top 10, but the game has changed. In the past, good sales would have been driven largely by the success of major sedan models – your Corollas, Ceratos, and so forth.
But that’s all changed with the proliferation of SUVs as a dominant body-style, and in 2021 SUVs are clearly dominant. In 2020, sedans comprised 34 percent of new car sales, while SUVs were only half a point behind at 33.5 percent. In the first half of 2021, SUVs clearly eclipsed four-doors, taking 36.8 percent of the market, with sedans at 31.3 percent. It’s the culmination of a trend CarBuyer has long expected from looking at overseas markets, and in 2021 it finally broke through.
A co-trend is also at work: Electrification.
It’s easier to package an SUV as a hybrid or BEV than a sedan, which is why almost all the BEVs on the market are soft-roaders. In fact, the only BEV sedans of note here are the Tesla Model 3 and Model S, Hyundai Ioniq Electric (which is actually a liftback hatch) and Porsche Taycan.
And speaking of electrification, while the names in the Top 10 (or 11 rather) remain the same, looking at what powered the new cars that were sold in 2021 shows that electrification is truly powering up here. We’ll cover that in a trend story on electrification to follow this one shortly.