Feeling the heat of competition from online sites, used car traders are banding together to set up their own portal. A group of 20 traders led by Mr Eddie Loo, managing director of CarTimes Automobile, is raising $5 million with the aim of rolling out the site by early next year.
"The online presence is eating into dealers' business," Mr. Loo told The Straits Times. "We need to protect our business before it's all taken away from us." He said competition has been coming fast and furious, in the form of such entities as sgCarMart, Carousell, Carros and ------. "And we find it's meaningless for us to support these online portals when they are competing with us," he added. Carousell, for instance, has muscled into the car domain, while sgCarMart has just started a car financial services arm. "Our aim is to become the largest online portal... to create a new marketplace for dealers," Mr. Loo said, adding that the yet-to-be-named site will be run by 'a professional team'. "It won't be run by dealers, so that it won't be one-sided," he added. "Every dealer will have a stake, so that their interest is protected."
He said the business-to-consumer site will cater to motorists who want to buy or sell vehicles, and it could eventually allow deals to be done fully online. "It's still preliminary," he added. "The $5 million is just the first phase." Mr. Loo said the investment will go into hiring a team as well as marketing efforts. "There's a lot of marketing to be done," he noted. The used car trade is in the doldrums on account of depressed Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices, which have rendered vehicle stocks bought with higher premiums commercially unviable. The slowdown, which started in July when COEs for cars up to 1,600cc fell to eight-year lows, has claimed at least one company. Shen Tat Enterprises has shut down after nearly 30 years in the business.
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