Parallel car importers confident of their reputations
Madam Jocelyn Phua has been in the parallel import car business for 12 years, and her company is accredited by the CaseTrust-SVTA (Singapore Vehicle Traders Association).
Lately, she has received calls from worried customers asking her how her company is doing.
They have been following the news about several parallel importers (PIs) closing down unexpectedly, leaving customers in the lurch and missing thousands of dollars.
Most recently, Royal Automotive, which had a showroom in Woodlands Close, closed down, owing a total sum of $600,000 to at least 13 buyers.
Parallel import cars made up about 22 per cent of all cars registered with the Land Transport Authority last year.
Parallel importers The New Paper spoke to felt that the bad publicity is giving them a bad name, but they are confident of the strong relationships they have built with their customers and their proven track records.
Customers are now more wary of buying from PIs because of the recent bad press, but Madam Phua, the managing director of Autolink Holdings, said being CaseTrust-SVTA-accredited helps.
She told TNP: "The reputations of PIs have definitely been affected, but we are not affected as much because we have been in the market for more than 10 years and we are CaseTrust-accredited."
The company obtained its CaseTrust-SVTA accreditation in March 2015."There are many requirements we need to fulfil, such as having a clean record and being financially stable, but it gives our customers peace of mind," Madam Phua said.
Mr Derek Low, director of Venture Cars, which is also CaseTrust-SVTA-accredited, said he always tries to have about 50 cars as ready stock."It is important to be upfront with customers if there are any delays. We will keep customers updated about the status of their certificates of entitlement or shipment of their cars," he said.
"There is also a video on our website explaining the process of obtaining the car."
Mr Ng Hoy Keng, founder and chairman of Leco Auto, is not worried as the 42-year-old company has an established name in the industry even though it does not have CaseTrust-SVTA accreditation.
He told TNP: "We run our business honestly and sincerely, and we promise quality to our customers.
"A lot of people recognise us as we have been in this industry for over 40 years."
Mr Alphonso Chan, 49, a former photojournalist who bought a Toyota Sienta Hybrid from Autolink Holdings in January, was not deterred by the negative publicity.
He said: "Customers have to do their due diligence to ensure that the company they are buying from is trustworthy.
"I had a few friends who bought from Autolink, and I also went to forums to discuss buying cars. I studied the car and company for about three months before buying."
He added that the contract was simple and had no hidden costs, and that the salesman explained clearly the process of importing the car from Japan.
Tips from Case
Mr Loy York Jiun, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), told The New Paper that there are 35 firms accredited under the CaseTrust-SVTA Joint Accreditation Scheme for motoring businesses.
He said: "In order to qualify for the CaseTrust mark, applicants are required to implement consumer-friendly policies, have proper dispute resolution procedures, conform to ethical advertising practices and provide structured training for staff."
Companies also have to take up a $50,000 insurance bond to protect the consumers' deposits in the event of an unresolved dispute.
Mr Loy advises customers to do research on car dealers by looking up reviews and feedback from past customers on online forums and websites to find out about their backgrounds and service quality.
He said: "Put down important terms, such as the delivery date, in writing.
"Claims made should be put in writing to prevent potential disputes as it is not easy to enforce verbal agreements.
"Always negotiate to pay as low a deposit as possible upon signing the contract. Do not make full payment upfront to the parallel importer."
In the event of an unresolved dispute, customers can approach Case at www.case.org.sg or call 6100-0315 for further assistance.- ISABELLE LIEW