Lifebytes Lifestyle


In celebration of the nation’s 53rd birthday, join us as we revisit some fond memories of the Volkswagen brand in Singapore in its early years.


The ’50s and ’60s marked a time of great change in Singapore. Still recovering from the aftermath of World War 2, Singaporeans did what they could to build up the economy of this fast growing city. Primary modes of transportation back then included trishaws and motorcycles, as owning a car was considered more of a luxury than a necessity.

As the colonial government still retained control in Singapore, British automotive makes were more frequently seen on the roads due to the lower taxes and import duties on these cars.

However, following self-governance in 1955 and the subsequent merger with Malaysia in 1962, a more liberal policy on foreign automobile brands was adopted. Combined with rising incomes and growing aspirations, the Volkswagen brand grew increasingly popular in Singapore. We take a look at some key points in the history of Volkswagen in Singapore.


19541954

The population of Singapore crosses the 1 million mark and Orchard Road becomes Singapore’s ‘Motor Row’, with automotive brands lining the streets. Champion Motors, located at 304 Orchard Road (now Lucky Plaza), brings in the first ever Volkswagen to Singapore in October. The first Beetle cars, also known as the Volkswagen sedans, are the 1,192 cc horizontally-opposed four-cylinder De Luxe sedans. You can purchase a Volkswagen sedan for $4,696, or a convertible for $6,195. People are attracted to its reliability and dependability.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

 


1956-Trafic-Jam-during-Singapore-Riots1956

Due to lower duties and road tax, British cars account for 57% of cars imported into the country. Despite the popularity of the Volkswagen sedan, these policies still prove to be a disadvantage for Volkswagen, with the market share of German cars remaining at a low of 12.5%.

(Image credits: 35 O.F.P – Kluang)

19581958

By this time, 2,000 Volkswagen sedans, convertibles, pick-ups and delivery vans have been sold. A gentleman named Pung Eng Huat is the 2,000th Volkswagen buyer. Most Volkswagen customers were school teachers, engineers, plantation staff and salesmen. The Volkswagen sedan is particularly favoured by plantation staff and travelling salesmen who require a reliable vehicle to travel long distances on dusty and inhospitable terrain in the tropical weather.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

 


Did you know?

To celebrate the importation of the 20,000th Volkswagen into Malaysia and Singapore, one Beetle was given away as a prize for every 50 Beetle units sold and registered throughout Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore in November 1966.


1960_malayan-emergency1960

The 12 year long Malayan emergency comes to an end. Singapore’s economy thrives once again.

(Image credits: rohaut.blogspot.com)

19611961

The number of cars on Singapore roads reaches 70,108, compared to 22,678 in 1951. Singapore has the highest car ownership rate in Asia.

(Image credits: victorkoo.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

 

 


19631963

In September, Volkswagen announces delivery of its 10,000th vehicle in Singapore – a 1,200 cc Beetle. The car is placed on a float and paraded around Singapore on 10 September. At the end of the year, the ‘S’ model of the Volkswagen sedan with a larger 1,500 cc engine and twin carburettors debuts in Singapore.  It costs $7,675 and is said by journalists to be powerful and stable with reassuring brakes and a supple gear change.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

 


1965_lovebug1965

Singapore achieves independence and the car industry continues to grow. Sales for car brands, including Volkswagen, reach record levels and roads grow increasingly congested. The Volkswagen sedan is no longer viewed as simply ‘practical’, but also trendy thanks to the growing Hippie culture of the mid to late ’60s. The younger generation’s interest in the car is only fuelled by the debut of the movie, The Love Bug.

(Image credits: Classic Car Photography)

 

 

 


didyouknow

Did you know?

The Singapore Police Force first used the Volkswagen Beetle as a patrol car in 1968. The Beetle police car even appeared in an episode of Hawaii Five-O titled ‘The Singapore File’!

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

1966-City_Robinson-Rd1966

Preferential tariff rates for Commonwealth cars are abolished by the Malaysian government in July, resulting in further growth and demand for Volkswagen cars which are now more attractively priced. Keen to boost their manufacturing sectors, Malaysia and Singapore offer generous tax incentives for manufacturers to establish a vehicle assembly industry with eventual full manufacturing capabilities.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

 

 


19671967

Through a working arrangement between Champion Motors and Cycle & Carriage, Volkswagen sub-contracts its assembly work to C&C’s plant at Hillview.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

19681968

Volkswagen assembly operations commence in January at the Hillview plant, with the factory able to produce six Volkswagen passenger cars and two Volkswagen vans a day! 3,240 Beetles and commercial vehicles are produced in its first four years alone.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

 

 

 


1980s orchard road1970

Property values in Orchard Road rise, and motor traders begin to move out of the area. By the late 1970s, many brands, including Volkswagen, move to the stretches of road along Leng Kee Road and Alexandra Road, effectively turning the area into Singapore’s new ‘Motor Road’. 

(Image credits: National Archives Singapore)

19741974

Production and assembly of Volkswagen cars in Singapore ceases due to profitability reasons and the cessation of previous incentives.

(Image credits: ‘Loving the Beetle – Stories of Singapore’s Beetle Owners.’ by Eli Solomon.)

20072007

Following the growth and popularity of Volkswagen in Singapore, Volkswagen starts its own base of operations here with a showroom and service centre located at Alexandra Road. It is the first car brand to do direct retail here. A second showroom and service centre is opened in MacPherson in 2012, which later becomes ‘Volkswagen Exclusive’ in 2014.


We’ve certainly come a long way since our humble beginnings! Interested to see how our iconic Bug has changed over the years? View it here! Here’s wishing everyone a very Happy National Day!

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