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Despite Merc's strength in 2022, parallel imports pulled Toyota back to the top for new car registrations. Elsewhere, electrification is starting to take hold.

26 Jan 2023

2022 was likely a year many working in the car industry would like to leave behind. In the face of a COE supply crunch, premiums soared to unprecedented heights, breaking nearly thirty-year-long records in their wake. As the number of digits on price lists increased, so too did showroom crowds dwindle.

Nonetheless, one would imagine the more well-heeled to look at purchases differently from everyone else - and this appears to be reflected in recently-unveiled rankings of how each brand fared in new car registrations. Focusing solely on our local authorised dealers brings us to the following list, published by The Straits Times

Rank Carmaker Units registered (authorised dealers)
1 Mercedes-Benz 4,336
2 Toyota (including Lexus) 3,997
3 BMW 3,626
4 Hyundai 1,669
5 Mazda 1,119
6 Tesla 867
7 Nissan 857
8 Kia 838
9 Audi 821
10 Honda 792

This marks the first time Merc has topped the list
As you've probably already heard, Mercedes-Benz emerges above Toyota (and Lexus) for what seems to be the first time ever as the only brand to surpass 4,000 units for 2022. By moving to the top from its third place in 2021, it overtakes BMW for the first time in several years too. 

The rest of the Top 10 is then filled largely by names we're not unfamiliar with, and with less movement than expected too (e.g. Hyundai and Mazda are non-movers at 4 and 5).

Tesla has made the Top 10 for the first time in the list including only authorised dealer registrations
Two names, however, depart the list (we'll get to them later on), as one zips to number six: Tesla. Absent from 2021's official list, the American carmaker places at 6 for 2022 with 867 units.

Still, that's not the list you clicked on the title for.

And so, as we include units registered through parallel importers once more, the following is the Top 10 list for newly registered cars across the board in Singapore for 2022:

Rank Carmaker Units registered (overall)
1 Toyota (including Lexus) 6,405
2 Mercedes-Benz 5,262
3 BMW 3,720
4 Honda 3,274
5 Hyundai 1,673
6 Mazda 1,126
7 Tesla 875
8 Nissan 865
9 Audi 856
10 Kia 839

The previous-generation Honda Vezel was still being sold by parallel importers well into 2022 
The significance of the parallel import market evinces itself once again in this list, where Toyota reclaims pole position with 6,405 units registered. Likewise, Honda rebounds to No. 4 on the strength of parallel imported models. It might interest some to know that the previous-generation Honda Fit is still being listed on our New Cars directory, while the older Vezel was only taken down a few months ago. 

Nevertheless, Toyota's lead is repeated with a significant dip in numbers, and this trend holds across nearly the entire Top 10. In 2022, approximately 3,200 fewer units were registered for the Japanese carmaker than in 2021 - a slide of about 34%. 

Others were hit even worse; registrations for Mazda, Nissan and even Audi - a premium brand for which one might expect demand to be a bit more inelastic - were more than halved.

Price-inelastic demand arguably helped premium marques experience better-than-average declines
Where the inelasticity came through, however, was with Singapore's all-time favourite premium marques. Registrations for BMW only slid a commendable 29%, while Mercedes-Benz fared even better with a tinier 18% dip.

Nonetheless, by far the most impressive among the Top 10 was a brand that continues to fuel conversation today. 

With 875 units in total, Tesla registrations only experienced a 5% decline year-on-year. The launch of its widely-anticipated second model - the Model Y compact SUV - likely contributed to this, and the brand's success remains impressive considering it officialy only still has two models here. No successors have been announced yet.

Rank Carmaker Units registered (overall)
11 Porsche 838
12 BYD 786
13 Volkswagen 452
14 Citroen 350
15 Volvo 338
16 Ssangyong 309
17 Peugeot 302
18 MG 270
19 MINI 256
20 Mitsubishi 238
21 Opel 224
22 Land Rover 188
23 Skoda 175
24 Suzuki 161
25 Polestar 158

Bucking the trend, Porsche's steady growth persisted in 2022 with a 23% increase in units registered
Right below, knocking on the door of the Top 10 are two very different brands that nonetheless have a very successful 2022 in common to celebrate. 

Improving on its already-incredible showing in 2021, Porsche remarkably bucked the market-wide slump to boost its registrations in 2022. It actually managed a net increase of 158 units, or about 23%, to land at number 11.

This was Volkswagen's spot on the 2021 list (the German giant has slid down to 13th place for 2022). However, a spokesperson from the brand has hinted at the arrival of a Cat A Golf in Q2. That, and its plans to introduce its ID. models from the end of this year, could see it climbing its way back up.

Right behind Porsche, the steady local inroads built by BYD over more than half a decade have finally been brought to the fore.

Beyond the e6, BYD's success in 2022 is likely due in large part to the bespoke Atto 3 as well 
The electric carmaker registered 786 units for 2022 - nearly 700 more than the 89 it did in 2021 - thus also logging the highest spike seen among the entire Top 25: An unbelievable 783% year-on-year rise. 

Of course, one cannot ignore the fleet-allocated e6 MPVs in this equation. But even with those removed from the picture, the nearly 300 remaining units are still evidence of incredible growth for the brand. On that note, the Atto 3, BYD's first bespoke EV to be launched here, has received widespread praise since its release.

Just as there were clear winners, however, other brands also faded into the background as COE premiums climbed. Previously 11th-placed Mitsubishi, for instance, fell to 20th place in a year with no new launches. Meanwhile, Jaguar, Seat and Subaru left the Top 25 entirely. 

Our eyes are on the latter though; it recently brought the WRX and WRX Wagon back to our shores, with the Solterra set for impending launch. 

3 interesting observations 

1) Electrification is finally being taken seriously

The LTA started making clearer distinctions between different drivetrains in 2022
In tandem with unprecedented growth in the electric car population, 2022 marked the year when the LTA finally decided to make more explicit distinctions between different drivetrains. 

For the first time ever, there were clear demarcations in data between five main categories for the second half of 2022: Petrol power, diesel power, petrol-electric, petrol-electric (plug-in), and electric. (Fun fact: A single plug-in hybrid diesel Mercedes-Benz was registered in October.)

In its first full year of sales, Polestar managed to put 158 units of its sole model onto our roads 
On the note of electrification, the take-up of full EVs is also not only accelerating in isolation; they're also taking up a larger share of the new cars rolling onto our roads, going from just 3.8% in 2021 to 11.7% last year.

In this arena, the might of Tesla and BYD has been unmistakeable thus far, but Germany's Big Three, as well as Hyundai, are also benefiting from jumping on the bandwagon early. In addition, as older names dropped out of the Top 25, one all-electric star (pun intended) newly rounds out the list: 158 Polestar 2s (the only model available) were registered in 2022.

2) Ssangyong…? 

The only passenger car still listed by Ssangyong Singapore is the Tivoli Diesel 
Seeing a lower-volume Korean brand place above Peugeot, Mitsubishi and Suzuki might not have been on your bingo card for 2022. Yet there Ssangyong is at 16, with 309 units registered for the year.

Another interesting fact to note is that Ssangyong leads the entire list with the most diesel-engined units registered. In fact, only nine of its 309 cars had petrol engines. Still, think harder - and perhaps look around your HDB carparks - and the phenomenon may start to make itself clear as you notice those specially-coloured lots.

While we don't have any concrete evidence to back this up, it's likely a large proportion of these Ssangyongs are being rented on an hourly basis. And if there's anything to be taken away from its initially surprising figures, we'd say that car-sharing is in full bloom in Singapore (past figures have also indeed corroborated that).

Speaking of which…

3) Singapore's motorcar population is still not shrinking

Singapore's motorcar population continued to swell in 2022, in spite of prevailing COE prices 
Another surprising phenomenon to note is that despite the significant decline in new car registrations for 2022, Singapore's passenger car population still experienced slight year-on-year growth.

The figure under the 'Cars and station wagons' category provided by the LTA stands at 650,677 as of year-end: An increase of 5,517 (or slightly below 1%) from 2021. 

On a pure mathematical level, the results are self-explanatory; the 30,484 new cars registered in 2022 simply outweighed the 24,967 de-registrations seen in 2022. But a catch lies in the new car registration data too. 

In 2022 at least, growth was witnessed most acutely among company cars and private-hire vehicles
Multiple groups are combined together under the 'Cars and station wagons' category. Aside from private passenger cars, company cars, private-hire vehicles, tuition cars (for driving schools) and off-peak cars (OPCs) are also included.

Among these, shrinkages were only seen for the tuition car and rapidly-declining OPC population.

Contrarily, growth was most acutely witnessed in - you guessed it - company cars and private-hire vehicles. The opaqueness of our COE system has always made it difficult to definitely declare why prices trend in a particular way, but if such phenomena are anything to go by, criticisms that private buyers are being priced out by bidders who operate fleets feel difficult to discredit.

Here are other stories that may interest you! 

(2021's analysis) A different list: Toyota is still king, but a new name is rising

Dec 2022: As premiums stabilise slightly, COE supply for Cat A and E projected to increase slightly in Feb

Which car brands are going fully-electric? Here's everything we know as of January 2023

An alternative roundup of 2022

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new car registrations  2022  toyota  tesla  byd  porsche  mercedes-benz  bmw