HSV revives Holden exports to Singapore

words & photos - Joshua Dowling
Meet the new $300,000 Commodore, the export edition HSV GTS
Holden cars will return to Singapore after an absence of almost two decades thanks to an export deal secured by the company's performance division, Holden Special Vehicles.

Unlike the 14,000 or so Holdens sold in Singapore between 1954 and 1991 -- and in stark contrast to the last Holden sold here, a VP Calais powered by a 2.5 V6 borrowed from Saab -- the HSV range will take-on German thoroughbreds from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. After taxes the HSV GTS will sell for $338,000 and the HSV Maloo utility will cost $318,000 -- in Singapore dollars -- making them the world's most expensive new Holden cars.

The Singapore deal revives HSV exports beyond New Zealand after shipments to the United Kingdom (as Vauxhalls) and to the Middle East (as Chevrolets) stalled during the global recession.

Speaking at a gala event at the Changi Exhibition Centre last night, HSV boss Phil Harding (pictured) told the Carsales Network: "This is a really exciting opportunity for us, especially after the Global Financial Crisis. We're proud to be exporting again beyond our nearest neighbours, and it's the first time we've exported cars to a far away market wearing a HSV badge."

Race drivers Garth Tander and Greg Murphy helped unveil the latest HSV range, wowing local media, 200 high-rolling VIP guests and Australia's High Commisioner to Singapore, Doug Chester. In the lavish launch unlike any HSV has done before, a Holden Racing Team V8 Supercar, air-freighted for the event, also took guests for hot laps.

"It's wild to see a V8 Supercar in Singapore," said Tander. "We've been to the Middle East, but this is a new frontier for V8 Supercars. The people here haven't seen anything like a HSV or a V8 Supercar before. They absolutely love it."

HSV general manager of sales, Darren Bowler (pictured with new importer, Daniel Au), told the Carsales Network the Singapore deal could lead to further exports of HSV cars to other Asian countries.

"It's one step at a time at the moment. This is a really proud moment for us. It is a significant milestone for the brand and we're focusing on Singapore for now," he said.

A $338,000 HSV GTS may seem expensive when compared to its Australian price of $80,000 -- but it is cheaper than its German rivals. In Singapore, a Mercedes-Benz E63 costs $465,000. Even cheap cars are expensive in Singapore. A Honda Jazz costs $80,000, (about $20,000 in Australia), a Toyota Corolla sedan costs $102,000 (about $25,000 in Australia) and a Toyota Camry Hybrid costs $147,000 (about $37,000 in Australia).

Cars are prohibitively expensive in Singapore because they are among the highest taxed vehicles in the world. All cars are subject to 7 per cent GST, 20 per cent customs duty, and a 100 per cent "additional registration fee". On top of these fees the HSV cars will be subject to a $7000 road tax annually because of their 6.2-litre V8 engine capacity. The price of petrol is about $1.80 a litre.

Before motorists can buy a vehicle they first must purchase a Certificate of Entitlement -- a permit allowing them to buy a car. The price of a COE has risen by 32 per cent so far this year -- to between $47,000 and $49,000 -- as the Singapore government tightly controls the number of cars on its roads.

With a population of 5 million people living in an area less than one-third the size of Canberra (at its widest points, the country stretches 42km east to west and 23km north to south), Singapore is the world's second most densely populated country after Monaco. A decade ago there were more than 1.2 million vehicles registered in Singapore. Today, after a program that crushes older cars, the number of vehicles on Singapore roads has been halved, to about 580,000.

Singapore typically sells about 80,000 new cars each year -- less than one-tenth the number sold in Australia annually -- but new-car sales are down by about 18 per cent in 2010.

Despite the gloomy automotive outlook, HSV is confident the brand will succeed in Singapore. While sales of small, efficient and affordable cars are down, sales of luxury vehicles are up. This year BMW has had a rapid rise from the seventh biggest selling brand to take second place behind Toyota, while Honda dropped from second to fifth outright.

The HSV distributor in Singapore, automotive entrepreneur Daniel Au, told the Carsales Network: "Singapore is a premium market so the price is not an issue. I don't think we will have a problem at all selling a car like this. There is nothing else like it here."

Au expects to sell 20 to 30 HSV cars in the first full year and up to 50 a year after that.

"We want to build it slowly. In Singapore, HSV is about being exclusive and driving a car no-one else has."

Au expects to sell HSVs to Singapore locals and, possibly, some wealthy homesick Australians. Half of Singapore's population is made up of foreigners.

"Surprisingly, a lot of people in Singapore know what a HSV is. Whether they're Australian or from the UK they seem to recognise the car. To those who don't know the HSV heritage, they still regard it as a premium performance car."

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Published : Friday, 26 November 2010
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