Car buying is in high gear once again, with COE supplies ramping up to their cyclical peaks between this year (2016) and next (2017).
This year alone, motorists are poised to snap up around 90,000 new passenger cars – 57 percent more than last year and 215 percent more than in 2014.
In this flurry of transactions, unscrupulous retailers will be circling like vultures, waiting for unsuspecting consumers to succumb.
Succumb to what? Well, to the desperation of replacing their fast-expiring cars. Or they could be delirious from the frenzy whipped up by relaxed car loan rules and fear of Uber and gang driving COE premiums even higher.
So, it is worthwhile for consumers to do some homework before setting off with cheque book in hand. After all, for most people, buying a car is something they do only once or twice every 10 years.
Of course, the first thing to do would be to decide what car to buy. This is where a trusted motoring publication like Torque can help. The Straits Times’ Life Motoring section on Saturday also provides good resource material.
After deciding what car to buy, a consumer’s journey is far from over. In fact, he or she has merely taken the first step. The next step – deciding which retailer to buy from – is equally crucial, if not more so.
As with other products and services, purchasing from a big, established company is usually safer than buying from a small, no-name firm. Granted, there can be small firms which are reliable, but do you want to chance it with a big-ticket item like a car?
Big companies are big for a reason. They are successful, and one of the reasons they are successful is that they treat their customers right. This is generalisation, of course. Big successful companies can become complacent, too.
But in the car market, there is one strong motivation for not resting on one’s laurels: intense competition. And unlike in some other fields, the competition in the motor trade is real.
Buying from these companies could well cost more. One reason for this is these big companies have a reputation to protect, and they invest in systems and set aside provisions to ensure that customer satisfaction goes beyond the point of sale.
For instance, warranty. Big firms guarantee against defects beyond the period/mileage specified by the manufacturer. Extended warranty costs money.
Safety recalls, in the news because of the Takata airbag scandal, requires resources, too. Although the manufacturer pays for the cost of recalls, a retailer has to have the right tools and expertise to get the job done, and the database to contact customers of affected vehicles.