Sunday, October 14, 2007

Going Mobile

Apart from a brief period when I had an employer provided car, I have been without wheels in Singapore. This has been a matter of rational choice and some emotional regret.

The rational choice comes from the absurd price of motoring in Singapore. To purchase a car is not just a matter of putting one's cash on the table, but rather a complex journey through permits, taxes, monopoly dealerships, and financing options that make the U.S. sub-prime mess look like child's play.

To buy a car in Singapore is to commit funds which would secure shelter in any other country. If one can mentally dispose of that ugly thought, there is also the matter of bidding for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which fluctuates in price in a way that would warm the heart of any commodity trader.

Having secured permission to buy a vehicle, there is then the dealer, who basically tells you what you will get and at what price. Add insurance, road tax, radio tax,
gas at almost S$2 a litre, parking at S$4 an hour, and you have an economic disaster on your hands.

In the end, it is much quicker and cheaper to just take taxis, or use the car sharing schemes around town. Except on the eve of public holidays. Or when it is raining. Or in the CBD at 6PM.

Which leads to the emotional regret. The car was always the symbol of freedom for any kid coming of age. Growing up, 16 was not the age of majority, it was the age you could get your driver's license, the real moment of adulthood for a Canadian teenager. Relying on other people to drive you around is a drag, even if they are limo drivers.

Having been forced out of our home by an en bloc sale, the long balance between rational thought and emotional regret fractured with our new location. Instead of a steady stream of taxis cruising by our front door, we are now in a taxi-free zone that makes spur of the moment travel impossible.

And so the car as saviour. It still doesn't make economic sense, but it sure helps soothe the trauma of missing mobility.

Which leads to the next decision. Put simply, "What car are you?"

In Asia, cars are an extension of "face" or status, hence the quite absurd market share of Mercedes, BMW, and other luxury brands. Thankfully, I am not wired that way, and could care less about brand. OK, I wouldn't voluntarily drive a Hyundai. There, I said it.

And beyond brand, what type of car should one buy? In an urban environment, what possible use is there for a Porsche Cayenne SUV? Given that most parking lots in Singapore
are so narrow they seem designed for bicycles, not cars, the effort of parking an SUV is intimidating at best. A mini-van screams "soccer mom", so that doesn't work.

With SUV's and mini-vans off the list, a good mid-life crisis would argue for a Porsche, or Corvette. Luckily, the first is too expensive and the second is not available, narrowing the search to something sporty, small externally, large internally, and preferably somewhat cheaper than a house.

Enter the MINI Cooper S. 175BHP, 0-100 in 7.1 seconds, and generally a hoot to drive. Easy to park, and very comfortable to sit in.

I know, rationally it makes no sense at all. Emotionally however, my face aches from smiling so much.

1 comment:

Easy Blogger said...

Fang Yih—Congrats! It took me 12 years and the wife to move to the US for me to get over the logical hump. And I always had you pegged for a Corvette—just not in Singapore.