FOREIGNERS tend to steer towards bigger cars, but Singapore citizens still make up the bulk of new car purchases.

Citizens, who make up 61 per cent of the total population, accounted for more than 80 per cent of new car registrations in 2012, 2013 and the first eight months of this year, said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

He gave the figures on Tuesday when replying to opposition MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC).

More specifically, citizens accounted for 89 per cent of Category A cars (up to 1,600cc and 130bhp) and 84 per cent of Category B cars (above 1,600cc or 130bhp).

Non-citizens make up the rest.

Among them, permanent residents (PRs) – who form 9.6 per cent of the population – accounted for 9 per cent in Category A and 12 per cent in Category B registrations. For non-resident foreigners, the respective figures are 2 per cent and 5 per cent. The numbers exclude cars registered to companies.

Motor dealers such as Cycle & Carriage (Mercedes-Benz, Kia, Mitsubishi), Performance Motors (BMW) and Wearnes Automotive (Bentley, Land Rover, Jaguar, McLaren, Infiniti, Volvo) have noticed more foreigners in their showrooms in recent years.

They tend to be largely from China, India and Indonesia, they said. But Ferrari agent Ital Auto said Singaporeans still form the vast majority of its buyers.

Said its marketing manager Nicholas Syn: “Foreigners are painfully aware of what cars cost back home, or in the region.

“A quarter-million euro sports car in Europe could easily cost $1.3 million here.”

The statistics Mr Lui cited also show a disproportionately large percentage of PRs registering commercial vehicles.

Between 2012 and August this year, they accounted for 32 per cent of non-company registrations of vans, trucks and buses.

Most commercial vehicles are registered to companies, but hawkers and owner-operators of heavy trucks can register these vehicles in their own name.

Explaining the phenomenon, National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said PRs may be more disposed to businesses that require the use of such vehicles. “No matter what, the figure is high,” he said. “Does this imply that Singaporeans are moving away from certain types of business?”

On the other hand, Dr Lee was not surprised that PRs were getting more Category B certificates of entitlement than A.

“PRs with the choice of car ownership can afford bigger cars because of their economic standing,” he said, noting that Singapore is selective in picking its PRs, who tend to be more talented, more educated or better paid

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