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Interesting way to spend your millions eh? Tongue

Tue, Jun 07, 2011
The New Paper
Meet the supercar junkies

By Joyce Lim

THEY do not need a test drive or even a viewing.

Some of them simply walk into a showroom and pay for their their million-dollar toys with cold, hard cash.

Welcome to the world of supercar buyers.

They are your property developers, top bank executives, lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs. And they do not stop at just one car.

Take Mr Victor Ow, chairman and chief executive officer of the Clydesbuilt Group of Companies, for example.

Just last month, the 57-year-old property developer bought a limited-edition Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 SV.

He already owns a Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 model, a Ferrari F430, a Bentley Azure convertible, a BMW 7 series and a Chrysler Grand Voyager, which was delivered to him last Sunday.

He declined to reveal how much they cost.

Last Wednesday, just before The New Paper on Sunday met him at his home, he had placed yet another order.

It was for a Ferrari 458 worth over $1 million with COE.

Small fraction

He said of his love for wheels: "Each car I buy costs a small fraction of what I made in my property investments and projects. Seeing my car collection motivates me to take on my next project."

Mr Ow, who is married with a daughter in her 20s, is the only one in the family allowed to drive the supercars he owns.

His daughter drives a convertible which he bought her but his wife does not drive. She is happy to have him ferry her from place to place or simply hail a taxi.

Mr Ow has been in the property business for the last 30 years and has developed more than 10 residential projects. His latest is a cluster-housing project called Eleven@Holland.

He said: "Every night before I go to bed, I would walk around my garage to appreciate my cars. They are like art pieces to me."

Asked what his dream car is, Mr Ow replied: "All the cars I have now are my dream cars. I always tell my family that if one day, I don't wake up from my sleep, I want them to know that I have lived a happy life."

Mr Ow is not the only one with a fleet of supercars.

Industry sources said there is a Singaporean businessman who owns over 20 supercars and he does not drive all of them.

Mr Francis Lee, general manager of Stuttgart Auto, the official distributor of Porsche cars in Singapore, said it is not uncommon for their customers to own more than one Porsche.

"These customers usually come from affluent backgrounds or have higher incomes," said Mr Lee. Dealers of supercars here are doing a roaring trade. Just how good is business?

Well, in many instances, some of these models are sold out even before they hit the showroom.

Mr Ian Gorsuch, McLaren Automotive's regional director for the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific, said that all 40 units of McLaren's first supercar allocated to Singapore have been sold out until the end of next year.

The highly-anticipated model, the MP4-12C, from the British manufacturer, was unveiled to prospective customers at the Red Dot Design Museum last week.

It is expected to cost close to $1 million with COE.

The Ferrari FF, which is said to be the world's fastest four-seater car, is also sold out.

The car, which costs $1.175 million (without COE), can go from 0 to 100kmh in 3.7secs and has a top speed of 335kmh.

Ital Auto, the official dealer of Ferraris here, would not say how many units have been sold, but disclosed that the wheels will arrive here only at the end of the year.

Last year, Ferrari's sales here more than doubled to 69 units.

As for Lamborghini, 54 units of Murcielago and Gallardo, including four unregistered Reventon limited-edition cars, were sold here.

Not bad, considering that Lamborghini delivered only about 1,300 cars globally last year.

No need to bargain

Unlike the typical car buyer who bargains when shopping for a set of wheels, those who splurge on supercars do not blink at the prices.

A Ferrari spokesman said: "Singapore has quite a mature market for supercars. Buyers are very well informed and most would have done their homework and made their decisions before coming to the showroom.

"Normally these buyers would know about the latest model at the same time as us. And when they call, the only thing they need to ask is usually the price."

Supercar buyers also do not need much time to mull over their million-dollar purchases.

Mr Brenur Ooi, 39, manager of Garage R, which imports supercars, said: "Supercar buyers usually know what they want. They would issue us a cheque right away if we are able to bring in the car for them."

"Price is seldom a deciding factor for them. They want to get the latest model in the shortest time. Some of them are even willing to pay more for us to parallel import the cars from the UK or Hong Kong, just so that they can get them earlier."

Singapore's leading race driver, Mr Melvin Choo, has also observed that supercar buyers here want the latest model.

He said: "When it is a limited edition or one that is hard to get, everyone will want to get it.

It's just like other luxury goods - there is always a nicer one around the corner."

Mr Choo has noticed how car makers are replacing models a lot quicker these day, in order to keep their buyers' interests.

Mr Ooi, who has sold supercars like the Nissan GT-Rs, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsche, Aston Martin and Lotus, said that most of his clients do not keep their cars for more than three years.

Mr Francis Cheng, the owner of Supercars Concepts, which sells both new and used supercars, said that he has clients who sold their supercars after owning them for only three months.

He added that not only do supercar buyers not ask to test-drive the wheels, they would also buy them, new or used, without even seeing them.

Asked if these buyers take up loans for their purchases, Mr Cheng, 37, replied: "About 30 per cent of my buyers do not take a loan. Even when they do, they take up a loan of only 50 to 60 per cent of the purchase price."

Mr Cheng, who set up his supercar import and export business three years ago, said that in a good month, he can sell about 15 used supercars, including Lamborghinis and Ferraris. And 25 per cent of his buyers buy the wheels even though they cannot drive them.

He said: "Some of these cars are left-hand drives. These buyers can't drive them on the roads here. They still buy the cars and keep them in their garages.

"When the cars break down (through the lack of use), some of them would arrange for the cars to be shipped back to the manufacturers for repairs."

This article was first published in The New Paper.