CarBuyer Analysis: Is The SUV/Crossover Craze Dying Down In Singapore?

Derryn Wong

Sedans still rule the roost in Singapore. CarBuyer looks at sales trends for the top six brands here in 2018 and predicts car sales for 2019


We’ve already analysed Singapore’s 2018 new car sales by brand in our analysis of the top-ranked brands – if you haven’t read that you should do that before continuing on this story.

We all know that globally, SUVs/crossovers are the fastest growing segment by quite a margin, but in Singapore’s case, the thrust towards crossing over seems to have slowed down a little.

We didn’t have the time nor the insane calculator finesse required to add up car sales by body type for every single brand in 2018, but we did summarise the top five brands (in descending order, Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Mazda) as seen in our chart – we added in sixth place BMW just to have a more complete picture of luxury brands.

The top five brands – Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Mazda – sold a total of 53,338 cars between them, which accounted for 66 percent of the 80,281 of passenger cars sold here in 2018.

“Nothing’s gonna change my love for you, you outta know by now how much I love saloons…”

Right off the bat you can see that sedans were far and away the most popular body style, with more than 40 percent, which is almost as much as the next two most popular types (MPVs/wagons and SUVs) combined. Hyundai’s sales were 80 percent sedans alone, giving credence to its claim that the Avante/Elantra was Singapore’s best-selling sedan in 2018.

Singapore’s best-selling car of 2018

It’s also interesting to see how the body type percentage differs between each brand.

Honda and Toyota sold more MPVs (we can safely assume no wagons for these brands) than any other type of passenger car, Toyota’s 40 percent MPV makeup reflects the fact that it sells five MPVs (Sienta, Previa, Vellfire, Alphard, Prius+).

For Mercedes-Benz vs BMW, we can see a clear preference for sedans (50 percent) from the Merc buyers, reflecting the classic status of the C, E and S-Class as Mercedes mainstays. BMW’s mix is a bit more balanced, with more sales from SUVs (the popular X1, new X3 and X4) and MPVs (2 Series Tourers).  

33 percent of BMW’s sales came from SUVs like the new X4 xDrive30i – click the pic for our review.

We can’t say for sure the SUV craze is on the way out of course, as we the brand’s own product line-up is key to understanding this.

Nissan, whose most popular models are the Qashqai and X-Trail, sees 40 percent of its sales from SUVs. The Qashqai remained its best-selling model, but it also saw a healthy takeup of sedans and hatchbacks:

“On the positive side, sales of the Nissan Note hatchback has more than doubled, and Sylphy sedan more than tripled year on year, with the latter showing strong sales momentum after the launch of a refreshed model in Q4 2018,” said Mr Ron Lim, General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Tan Chong Motor (Nissan).

What About 2019? A Smaller, Zappier Market… 

There are two things for sure this year: The drive to electrification will continue, and the overall market size will continue to shrink.

Electrified car populations have reached all-time highs. Even if they make up just 4.6 percent (28,140) of the 615,452 passenger cars on the road here, that’s a major jump from just 2,000 cars, or 0.36 percent of the 550,455 cars in 2008.

Jaguar has already launched the purr-ific I-Pace electric SUV here in Singapore and we’ve driven it – click the pic to find out what it’s like

Hybrids make up the biggest number of the 4.6 percent, with 27,179, but interestingly pure electric vehicles (EVs) now outstrip plug-in hybrids (380).

Both mainstream and luxury manufacturers will be increasing their electric presence in 2019, indeed the Jaguar I-Pace, Hyundai Kona EV have already debuted here, as seen at the Singapore Motorshow 2019, which is where Nissan announced its big green plans in store for Singapore. Audi and Mercedes look to launch premium EVs here this year too.

With the zero percent growth rate now in effect, the new car market/COE quota depends entirely on de-registrations, and we are now largely over the glut of older vehicles around seven to 10 years old.

Lower COE prices also means more people are renewing rather than buying new, ie holding onto their cars for longer

In 2015, cars of that age bracket made up 309,074 or 51.3 percent of the total 616,609 car population. In 2018, it’s gone down to 128,701, or 20.9 percent.  

“Going into 2019, with the COE quota forecasted to shrink further, competition is expected to intensify amidst the weak buying sentiment due to the weak economic outlook,” said Mr Ron Lim.

That doesn’t mean COE prices will necessarily skyrocket in 2019 though.  

If you’ve been following us – or simply have read our COE 2018 roundup on – you’ll also know that COE prices are at current lows and have been consistently throughout 2018, which may also prove that the Government’s moves toward ‘car-lite’, together with the convenience of ride-hailing apps, is easing demand for cars.



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.

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