As of now, at least one in five buyers chooses to buy from a parallel importer (an importer that is not appointed by the car manufacturer).
If someone recommends you to buy from a particular parallel importer, do simple Google searches on the company. If the searches unearth several complaints from past buyers, you might want to reconsider. If the searches turn up positive reviews, well and good.
Sometimes, an internet search might not turn up anything about a particular company. That does not mean the company has a good reputation. It may just mean it is too new or has too few customers for it to show up in an online search.
Another way would be to do a company search via the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. Information from these searches can tell you about the financial status of a company.
If you are not familiar with reading financial statements, yet another good way to judge if a parallel importer is trustworthy or not is to see if it has CaseTrust accreditation. This accredition programme was set up between the Singapore Vehicle Traders Association and the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) in 2009.
Most parallel importers do not have this accreditation. Again, this does not mean you cannot find a good one among non-CaseTrust members. But do you want to chance it with something that costs well over $100,000?
In recent years, unscrupulous firms (such as Royal Automotive, Exodus Global, TLC Cars and Star Link) have collected millions of dollars in deposits from unsuspecting consumers but failed to deliver their cars to them. The companies simply closed down, and their managers disappeared into the woodwork. The police usually treat these as civil cases, and even if they take action, consumers are highly unlikely to get their money back.
There are many more examples of bad motor firms, and the sad truth is that many in business today may be fronted by the same people who closed shop and ran away previously.
Consumers who have had bad encounters with parallel importers typically complain of non-delivery. That is, they place a deposit, thinking the company will secure a COE after six bids. But they find out later that the errant company did not make any bid, or made one or two feeble bids. At the end of six COE tenders, the consumers demand their deposits back, but are told desposits are non-refundable. This “clause” may be spelt out in fine print in the sales contract.
Fine print, incidentally, is not admissable in court in such cases, but consumers may not know this, and when this fine print is pointed out to them, they back down. And tragically, some even agree to “top up” on their purchase price – throwing good money after bad.