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    Mar 04, 2014

    Car doctors thrive as car population greys

    THE average age of Singapore's passenger-car population is the oldest in a decade, and motor workshops and automotive parts suppliers are seeing a boom in business.

    Last year, the average age of the car population hit 5.57 years, after steadily climbing from 2.67 years in 2007.

    It is a trend which industry players said will persist, as high certificate of entitlement (COE) prices and loan curbs make people hold on to their cars longer.

    The average age of 5.57 years is the oldest in a decade, and up from 4.89 years in 2012, going by an analysis provided by global automotive supplier ZF to MyPaper.

    The analysis was based on Land Transport Authority (LTA) statistics, which also showed that the number of cars aged between nine and 10 years nearly tripled last year, to 23,039 from 8,089 the year before.

    Cars aged between eight and nine years also showed a marked increase, to 84,212 from 29,983.

    Aftermarket workshops and parts suppliers are seeing a surge in business.

    Mr Joey Lim, managing director of Harmony Motor, said that compared to three years ago, business volume has increased by around 50 per cent.

    "It's definitely due to the ages of the cars. People are keeping their cars for longer, and have to spend more on maintenance. We are seeing more repair jobs related to wear and tear," he added.

    His operations are at "maximum capacity" and he has difficulty hiring more car mechanics due to the foreign labour curbs.

    Mr Markus Wittig, ZF Asia-Pacific's regional general manager for aftermarket sales, said the company has seen "double-digit growth" in sales annually for the last three years, with Singapore being a key contributor.

    ZF supplies components to car manufacturers such as Ford, Audi and BMW, and has about 20 dealers in Singapore which serve up to 200 workshops.

    Mr Wittig added that Singapore drivers cover about 20,000km a year, much more than their counterparts in Britain and Australia, who cover only 10,825km and 14,000km, respectively.

    Additionally, the high frequency of stop-and-go traffic here also significantly increases the rate of wear and tear of a car's undercarriage, he noted.

    Transport expert Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore said that in the past, when COE prices were comparatively lower, owners tended to change their cars every three to five years, or when warranty periods were up.

    They also took advantage of periods of low interest rates to buy a new car and take out a new loan.

    Professor Lee said a supply glut in COEs can be expected in the next two to three years, as the huge numbers of older cars reach the 10-year mark and will likely be deregistered.

    "Depending on whether the Government releases the scrapped supply back, the COE price may become unstable," he said