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Review of Taiwan's car market

On 4 December David Lin, Senior Writer of Car Guide, gave a presentation at a lunch arranged by the Automotive committee. Lin provided a comprehensive breakdown of sales in various automotive segments during 2013 and gave some hints on which vehicles to watch in 2014.

Taiwan is a relatively small market. It is ranked seventh in Asia (although the rankings provided by Lin excluded China) after Japan (No.1 with 3.5 million in car sales from January to August 2013), India (2.2 million), South Korea (1.03 million), Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Compared to last year, sales of cars in Taiwan have risen by 0.7% to 304,749 units (based on figures from January to October 2013).

However, the performance and market share of premium brand sales has continued to rise. Sales of premium brand vehicles rose to a record of 52,000 units, accounting for 14.1% of overall sales, the highest level ever.
Looking at just imported cars, Toyota is the largest player in the overall market while Mercedes Benz is No. 2 and BMW No. 3.More than half of the top 30 imported car models sold in Taiwan are European brands. Mercedes holds the 2nd, 3rd, 18th, 28th and 30th spots, BMW the 4th, 7th, 19th, 22nd and 24th slots, VW the 8th, 9th, 12th and 27th spots while Volvo has three models in the top 30.The largest market segment for imported cars is the "Under NT$2 million SUV market", where Toyota's RAV4 dominates the market with sales of almost 10 times the next best performing model. However, Mercedes-Benz models lead in the Medium Luxury segment (the second largest category in terms of unit sales) and the Compact Executive segment (the third largest) and a Mercedes-Benz model is second in the Large Luxury segment (BMW has the No. 1 model in the Large Luxury segment). Lexus leads in the NT$2-3 million SUV segment while Volvo is in second place followed by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

According to Lin, the over NT$3 million SUV segment has been hit hard by the luxury tax (the 10% tax imposed on vehicles that retail for NT$3 million or more). The Porsche Cayenne is the market leader in this segment with sales of almost double the next best-selling model (the BMW X5).

Sales of super sports and premium luxury cars (all European brands) were also good this year, although this segment makes up only a tiny portion of the overall market. Sales of hybrids and diesel cars have risen in recent years thanks to improvements in technology and fuel efficiency. Currently Lexus is the leader in premium brand sales of both the hybrid and diesel market segments.

Looking ahead to 2014, in the small SUV segment, Lin likes the Porsche Macan, which is light (and more fuel efficient) with an attractive design. It will compete in the NT$2-3 million SUV segment. Lin also likes the Mercedes-Benz GLA class SUV. For those with plenty of cash to spare, the new Ferrari LaFerrari looks good as does the new BMW i8, the Porsche 918 Spyder and the Maserati Ghibli.