CarBuyer Analysis: Singapore’s Top 10 Car Brands of 2020 - and lots more

Derryn Wong

Volt from the green 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The Year Of The Ox is the Year Of The Hybrid, which is ironic given bovines tend to have very high greenhouse gas outputs.

While the newly-advanced Green Plan has electric vehicles (aka EVs or BEVs) at the forefront its 60,000 charge points are still almost a decade away. In the meantime, good old “self-charging” petrol-electric hybrids will likely fill the gap, thanks chiefly to the S$5k increase in VES rebates for 2021.

In 2020, the population of petrol-electric hybrids here reached an all-time high of 41,845, up from 35,718 in 2019, a 17 percent increase. After petrol cars, which still dominate, petrol-electric hybrids are the most common car type here, with their numbers fast growing.

Within the total car population, hybrids account for just 6.5 percent of the 634,042 total, and are still relatively small in number against 572,132 petrol cars. But it’s an extreme contrast from a decade ago: 2010 saw only 3,305 hybrids on the road here, a mere 0.55 percent of the 595,185 car population back then.

Alternative fuels, which itself sounds outdated as a term, look like a no-go. The data proves as much: Diesel stalled at 18,076 cars in 2020 (only 25 more than 2019) and CNG-petrol cars have dwindled to just 202 cars, from 2,706 a decade ago. There are no compressed natural gas (CNG) cars at all.

Tesla might be grabbing headlines with its pricing, but with nowhere to charge privately, owning one here is impossible unless you’ve a landed property

Both plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have seen modest growth, but not comparable to that of petrol-electric hybrids, and both are certainly far off in bare numbers: PHEVs and BEVs went from 473 and 1,120 in 2019, to 552 and 1,217 in 2020. 

Both face similar challenges: To maximise their worth, both need home charging and most of the models on offer are not priced for the mainstream. In fact, there currently aren’t any PHEVs from mainstream brands. At the pricier end of the market, however, plug-ins look tantalising: At S$277,888 with COE, BMW’s 530e, for instance, is nearly the same price as a 520i Luxury.

2021: Hybrid theory practice and The Old Abnormal

Toyota’s Yaris Cross, as a hybrid mainstream SUV, is already a hit in 2021.

We expect hybrids and SUVs to continue their strong upward trend in 2021. 

This year, more generous VES rebates came into play. Cars banded A2 now receive a  S$15,000 tax rebate, and these tend to be petrol-electric hybrids. That means hybrids will have a crucial advantage against regular petrol-only cars in a market that will be increasingly competitive due to higher COE prices. 

The rebates will also make brands consider hybrid models that were once unfeasibly expensive. But both Toyota and Honda have hinted at expanding their hybrid offerings — an officially-imported Camry Hybrid, and Honda CR-V Hybrid could reinject interest into those models too.  

It will also affect buying in the luxury segment too. Consider that in July 2021 the S$5k penalties will increase for cars with a C1 rating, which would make the total difference between an A2 and C1 car S$30,000.

The hybrid Lexus IS 300h is very keenly priced against its petrol brother

Overall, the car market will continue to contract but perhaps not by as large a degree as we saw from 2019 to 2020. Multiple industry figures told CarBuyer they estimate it to vary between 35,000 and 45,000 this year.

“The market will see a shrinkage of at least 12 to 20 percent in terms of COE quota. In other words, we will revert to the 10-year cycle, like what we had in 2011 where the market size was at 30,758 for both Cat A and B,” Nicholas Wong, the general manager of authorised Honda distributor Kah Motor told us.

It’s not all gloom and doom, though: There are around 22,000 cars with five-year (non-renewable) COEs that run out in 2021, which will help bolster the overall quota, and there’s also the tiny top-up from the three months of Circuit Breaker 2020. 

In other words, while the world still struggles with Covid-19, the Singapore car industry still struggles with the systemic boom-bust decade cycle. If COE prices climb dramatically in 2021, things will get tough for dealers and people looking to buy a car. But at least we’ve been through all of this before. 

READ MORE: To prep you for the rest of 2021, find out every new car coming to Singapore in our encyclopedic story.

How do the VES S$5k revisions help hybrids? We explain

Check out our YouTube Channel with video reviews of the new Toyota Harrier Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz GLB and more!

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Analysis annual car type industry popular sales top 10

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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