SINGAPORE: Buying a car in the city-state could get even more expensive as external factors limit supply
After waiting for almost a year, Lim Swee Hoe was ecstatic when his S$340,000 Porsche Taycan finally arrived in Singapore last month.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” said the 56-year-old managing director, his eyes twinkling with pride at the white electric vehicle parked in the garage of his semi-detached home.
His swanky ride has contributed to a surge in EV adoption in the island state. Electric vehicles accounted for 8.4% of all new car registrations in the first five months of the year — double the level for all of 2021 and 20 times higher than 2020.
But just as a government push has seen demand for cleaner cars finally take off, global supply chain snarls are lengthening wait times and threatening to push prices even higher.
“The question is how many vehicles will EV makers ship to the city-state, given the market is relatively small,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Steve Man.
“With limited supply, EV makers will likely prioritize shipments to larger markets where demand is greater. The waitlist could expand due to this.”
That’s a reality car distributors are learning to deal with.
“Supply chain disruptions aren’t making things easy, so we work closely with the manufacturers and also manage customer expectations,” said Cheong Yan Pang, a managing director at Sime Darby Motor Holdings Ltd., a distributor of BMW and BYD Co. electric cars.
It’s a similar story for Sabrina Sng, a managing director at car dealership Wearnes Automotive Pte., who’s in charge of Polestar EVs.
“We have limited stock and it’s sporadic,” she said.
“It didn’t help with the Shanghai lockdown. Sometimes we lose certain months of production because vessels can’t leave the port, costing us time in which cars could have been built.”
Supply chain disruptions triggered by China’s Covid-19 pandemic curbs and the worldwide chip shortage have upended the global EV industry at a time of growing demand.
Across South-East Asia, countries are gearing up for mass electrification, from Thailand’s government trying to slow the sale of gas guzzling cars, to Indonesia planning a slew of incentives for electric-car manufacturers and drivers.
Singapore’s Transport Minister S. Iswaran said earlier this month he expects demand to continue to rise. The nation wants to phase out internal combustion-engine vehicles by 2040 and replace most of them with EVs.
Singapore is expected to lead the region in new EVs as a percentage of all vehicle sales, with at least one-third of all cars sold on the island forecast to be electric by 2030, according to a BloombergNEF report last year.
The city-state is still in its very early stages of adoption, however, with just 1,739 electric cars registered last year, and 1,116 in the first five months of this year, Land Transport Authority data show.
That compares with 2021 passenger EV sales of 9,015 in Thailand and 718 in Indonesia, according to BNEF estimates . In China, about one in five cars sold is electric.
Singapore has relatively low car ownership overall. It’s one of the world’s most expensive places to buy a car with steep excise and registration duties. People must also bid for a limited number of car-ownership permits, known as certificates of entitlement, that are auctioned by the government.
Lower registration fees and improved charging infrastructure are helping fuel demand for EVs.
The government has targets to equip 2,000 public housing car parks with chargers by 2025, and install a network of 60,000 chargers across the island by 2030 in an effort to spur uptake.
That should alleviate concerns mass market car buyers have on the feasibility of EVs as their primary vehicle, said BNEF analyst Allen Tom Abraham.
Among the potential new customers is Justin Chiam, a 42-year-old engineer who’s considering swapping out his Subaru Forester SUV for a battery-powered BYD Atto 3. It retails for about S$80,000 and an ownership permit will cost around S$100,000.
The island is currently dotted with about 2,500 charging ports and Chiam has mapped out his charging route. “Now I just pump and go at the petrol kiosk,” he said.
“I think for EVs it’s a whole new way of living in a sense that you’ve got to integrate that part into your lifestyle.”
Meanwhile, Lim is enjoying his new Taycan, for which he paid about S$340,000, plus almost S$100,000 for an ownership permit.
He finds it “just as powerful” as the Porsche 911 he test drove several times. And he’s grateful it’s finally arrived: Porsche said the waiting time now has ballooned to as long as 18 months.