Singapore’s Most Popular Car Brands of 2021

Derryn Wong

If raw registration figures are what we go by, BMW has done well for itself by improving one position and re-entering the Top Three. It boosted its sales by 906 units in 2021, for a total of 5,255, giving it 11.6 percent market share, an uptick of 1.82 percent, all impressive achievements for a flat market year. 

BMW’s strong sellers this year were its core range, including the 5 Series and 3 Series, and its SUVs the X1 and X3, and chip shortages didn’t hamper its performance much. Its eye-ball catching model for 2021, the 4 Series (in coupe, convertible, and four-door Gran Coupe body styles) also exceeded sales expectations. 

Mr Lars Nielsen, the Managing Director of BMW Group Asia speaking at EV Weekend 2021

“In 2021, we were faced with unexpected challenges from the ongoing pandemic, supply chain issues and other external factors. Despite these challenges, we managed to further digitalize the business, improve our customer touch points to make them more engaging and memorable, and brought to market a number of new and exciting models. Therefore, it is fantastic to see all our hard work has paid off and we’ve managed to be the third biggest car brand in Singapore,” Mr Lars Nielsen, the Managing Director of BMW Group Asia, told CarBuyer. 

There’s also a twist like last year, though. While CarBuyer uses the LTA’s overall registration figures, if you count purely authorised unit sales (not parallel imports) BMW has the second spot over Mercedes-Benz – but that’s the parallel universe interpretation, so to speak. 

Yet just as important to raw sales figures now is the evolution toward electrification, and BMW is clearly one of the leaders among the established car brands. The German brand’s seven-year absence from battery electric vehicles ended with a bright spark thanks to the BMW iX3.

“The iX3 was launched in July 2021 and sold out in months, leaving behind a long list of customers eager to secure the iX3 facelift version launched in November. We also saw immediate demand for the iX which only debuted in December. It’s inspiring to see more and more drivers in Singapore making the switch to EVs, and I’m excited to say we have more models coming their way in 2022,” said Mr Nielsen.

No surprise there since CarBuyer immediately singled out the iX3 as the cheapest X3 around, despite its EV nature, and reported it as the best X3 of them all after our test drive. BMW also launched its new tech flagship, the iX, and it made a big splash debuting at EV Weekend 2021. But in sales terms, it’s a S$400k with COE car and it arrived in December, so its impact on numbers hasn’t been as large.

Of its 5,255 registrations in 2021, 900 were electrified cars – or 17 percent. Not super impressive sales figures, but keep in mind that BMW has one of the widest range of PHEVs on hand (330e, 530e, 745 Le, and more) plus full EVs, so it’s planted its flag high in the EV race. At this point in time, any electrification consumers can get their hands on worry-free is good, and BMW is showing how it should be done.

Sales score: 8/10
Electrification Score: 8/10

Elon-gated Shock 

We’ve test driven the updated 2021 Tesla Model 3 Performance in Singapore

In 2021 though, something happened which I’ve not seen in my 15 years as a motoring journalist: A brand making an official debut and immediately cracking the Top 10. In this case, it was Tesla with its total of 924 registrations and that was just enough for it to push Volkswagen (915 registrations) out of the Top 10.

Even more impressive is the fact that this all happened in the second half of the year. Tesla made its official debut in February and only began deliveries in March, so the 30-ish units registered before then were parallel imports. The allure of the American EV company is no doubt driven by the company’s immense (and very overblown) stock market valuation plus Head Alien Elon Musk’s various tech ventures including SpaceX, but the key draw here has been the very competitive pricing and novel driving experience. 

What we want to see is how long the novelty will last and if the brand can sustain this excellent performance – it might too, with the mid-sized SUV Model Y coming this year. 

Slicing The Pie

Not all impacts can be measured in sales terms alone

As typical, outside of the podium – or even the Top Five – the sales figures drop off precipitously and competition becomes very close, like everyone brought a knife to a knife fight. To put this to perspective, the top five brands here took  63.8 percent of the market. The higher you get the more the numbers impress – Toyota’s total electrified registrations are more than Hyundai and Mazda’s total, combined.  

Honda slipped a rank to fourth position, something we saw during the last High COE cycle circa 2011-2013. This time around, Honda’s lack of larger cars with price competitive hybrid systems could have hurt its chances – it has no direct competitor to Toyota’s Camry and Harrier Hybrids, whose VES rebates help offset their expensive Category B COEs. But it just launched the new HR-V, which could help its sales even if the regular gasoline model is going to be the mainstay rather than the hybrid.

Audi slipped one rung on the ladder, with its registrations going from 2,228 to 1,975, around 11 percent less. In 2021 the brand’s major car was the A3 sedan/hatch, a traditional mainstay, but the lack of a Cat A model – unlike the previous-gen car – could have hampered sales, especially with Cat B going almost to the moon toward the second half of the year.

But Audi can be proud that it’s scored well when it comes to electrification: Of the 1,975 cars it sold, 1,056 of them were electrified, or 53 percent. And while we haven’t exhaustively analysed every luxury brand, it’s very likely Audi stands at the top of the table when it comes to electrification amongst luxury brands. Almost all of its cars from the small class and above are mild hybrids, with the headliners being the E-Tron range and of course the unmissable E-Tron GT. 

Nissan was another stand-out here: Of its 1,821 cars sold, 1,519 were electrified cars from its hybrid E-Power range – a staggering 83 percent. The thing is, Nissan only has three hybrid models – the Kicks, Note, and Serena, but it goes to show that even that is enough as long as they’re priced just right. Nissan increased it sales from 1,578 to 1,821 in 2021, earning a promotion to eighth. 

2022’s Crystal Ball

High COE prices will be here to stay, although they will be tempered by de-registrations of five-year (non-renewable) COEs. But high COEs trend to pushing mainstream brands out of the market, and the reverse is true for luxury brands.

But electrification and premium-ness has evolved since 2013. Mazda and Kia are good examples, with both brands having premium, large SUVs like the CX-8 and Sorento. Kia, in particular, launched the big MPV Carnival last year to decent sales, and this year will be debuting the rather exciting EV6. The latter will be an interesting case study into branding: If Tesla is anything to go by, maybe the new-ness of electrification means old brand values aren’t as important. 

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Analysis Audi bmw industry mazda Mercedes-Benz sales Singapore Toyota

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's former chief editor was previously the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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