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Key Car Trends in 2021

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2020 was a watershed year for the entire planet––the effects of the pandemic were felt everywhere, leaving nothing unscathed in its path. Naturally, the car industry wasn’t spared. Car sales slumped, thousands of people were laid off, and international road trips all but halted.

Still, the world doesn’t stop changing, and 2020 not only brought about some surprising developments, it also accelerated a number of trends that were already in place. Who knows what lies ahead in the next decade, but we think the new normal is going to be pretty exciting for the automotive world. Here are some of the key trends we’re looking at in 2021.

Image by faungg's photos

Personal car ownership to rise

In the last decade, public transportation seemed to be enjoying a slow but steady renaissance––at least until the arrival of COVID-19. Fears of transmission meant that many turned to private modes of transportation: global sales of bicycles flourished in the early pandemic (even in Singapore!), trains and buses saw significant drops in commuter levels, and most importantly, driving grew in popularity worldwide.

A year on, driving remains a popular choice in many countries for personal health and safety reasons. Americans took road trips to escape pandemic stress, while car sales in China boomed in the early months of the pandemic as people sought security in controlling their environments. Japan has seen an uptick in many more people taking driving lessons. In Singapore, luxury car sales remain steady.

For 2021, we think it likely that the personal car ownership trend will continue, at some cost to environmental goals. Many who don’t already own cars are seriously considering purchasing one in light of the ongoing pandemic. Travel borders don’t look like they’ll open again in a hurry, and for a tiny island, Singapore has a surprising number of hidden gems and places to explore––if you can drive, anyway! (Staycation at Gardenasia, anyone?)

COE supply is likely to fall

According to online car marketplace sgCarMart, there are likely to be 11% fewer certificates of entitlement (COEs) for the February to April 2021 quota period. What does this mean for consumers? Well, COE premiums are likely to rise in response––in November they increased 4–5% across all car categories––so you can expect the overall cost of buying a car to rise.

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback Hybrid: Why not try leasing one with us today?

Alternative modes of car ownership

For a time, it looked like public transportation and rideshares like Grab would displace car ownership altogether. The pandemic means that more people want to own a car––but the cost of buying a car in Singapore is enough to make anyone curl up in a corner and cry.

Fortunately, we have access to different and more affordable means of owning a car these days. For one, we think consumers are going to look to purchasing second hand cars. Depending on the exact model and the car dealer, you can find some excellent deals going, and you’ll be giving a pre-loved car a new home. (We specialise in used cars––and we love finding the right match for our customers!)

Also, we think more consumers will want the convenience of owning a car without actually being saddled with a depreciating asset. Since owning a car in Singapore isn’t going to get any cheaper this year, might we suggest the more budget-friendly option of leasing a car? The best part is that you won’t have the hassle of trying to snag a COE, either!

Tesla Model X 75D by Pal-Kristian Hamre


Electric vehicles (EVs) were already touted as the next big thing in the automotive industry, but the pandemic, along with the climate emergency, has only accelerated this trend.

For starters, not only did Singapore pledge to phase out all internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040, they’re now considering bringing forward that target, offering some rebates and incentives to consumers who switch over to full EVs. They’re also looking to ramp up charging infrastructure, which has so far been the biggest impediment to widespread EV adoption. If that wasn’t enough, Hyundai has chosen to build an electric car manufacturing plant right here in S’pore. The future is literally on our doorstep!

We’re also keeping an eye on developments in China: Tesla might be the most (in)famous EV brand in the world, but the first half of 2020 alone saw China produce 38.4% of the world’s electric vehicles. The Chinese government is heavily investing in electric vehicles, backing nascent companies like NIO; Chinese tech giants like Baidu and Tencent Holdings also have plenty of skin in the EV-related tech space. With a greater number of companies in the space, consumers are likely to have more choices at competitive prices.

In short, give it a few years, and we’ll probably see quite a few China-made EVs trundling around Orchard Road. (But not before we see an official Tesla showroom first: it looks like they’re hiring in Singapore!)

Toyota Camry Hybrid by ST Auto

Hybrids will still be popular

Despite the macro shift away from gas-powered cars towards EVs, Singapore still doesn’t have the infrastructure for mass EV adoption just yet. In the interim, hybrid cars are likely to continue plugging the gap.

For example, the road tax for some hybrid models will be revised to be less punitive. Furthermore, under the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES), owners will receive a nice rebate for less-polluting cars (in Band A) while more polluting cars will come with an emissions surcharge. Some hybrids are still included in Band A, although more have been re-classified as Band B (receiving neither a rebate nor a surcharge). Make sure you check with your dealer as to what category your car falls in!

(If you’re considering a hybrid, we particularly like the Toyota Corolla Hatchback and Toyota Camry.)

Watch out for deals on 2020 models

Just like iPhones (or any other piece of tech), there are new models every year––and that means discounts on the older models as dealers try to shift existing inventory. This is great news for consumers! You might not need or want the newest 2021 models when a 2020 one would do just fine. Plus, sellers wanting to shift their older models are likely to offer sweet incentives and promotions, like no-interest financing or deferred payments.

Right now is a great time to go car shopping, and with any luck, you might even find an almost-brand-new second hand 2020 model lurking in a dealership somewhere.

Looking for a fantastic second hand car to buy, or a shiny new car to lease? Head on over to ST Auto for a test drive with our friendly sales staff. Call +65 6464 9098 or email us at

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