Icons of out Time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 August, 1995, 12:00am

NAME: The Used Car.

OR: The super-expensive luxury sports car with only 3,000 kilometres on the clock that nevertheless finds itself on the market because its owner wants something new.

EXAMPLES: 'Pre-adored' models on offer recently at an Italian dealership included a 1994 Alfa Romeo 348 Spider, with 3,200 km on the clock, for $1.38 million and a 1991 Ferrari Testarossa, which had done 3,500 km, for $1.28 million. Elsewhere around town, used-car centres are filled with shiny, nearly new Porsche Turbos and 911s selling for more than $500,000.

IRONIES: (1) Anywhere else in the world the Used Car is just that, an honest auto that has been flogged to death by one or more owners before a dodgy character in an even dodgier jacket waxes it and tries to sell it. Here, the salesman (whose jackets are dodgy but expensive and are usually worn with smart black trousers) has his job done for him. Mr Millionaire plays keeping-up-with-the-Chans and off-loads a procession of almost-new cars to the salesman whose only problem is persuading potential buyers that buying second-hand doesn't mean losing face.

(2) In a place where people make millions on the property market, on stocks and shares, by stiffing business competitors and generally being cut-throat about their approach to money, it's incredible that people should be prepared to throw away so much dosh on these four-wheeled money cash-guzzlers that are never going to appreciate in value.

WHO WINS: Luxury car manufacturers, who play on the prestige buyer's insecurity by churning out new status symbols. The Government, which levies massive tax demands on imported motors.

WHO LOSES: The average car owner, who sees taxes, licensing fees and rental costs spiral because of this 'unreal' approach to car ownership. The same sort of thing applies to flat rentals in Hong Kong.

CLOSELY RELATED TO: Harley-Davidsons and other luxury cruising bikes driven by businessmen who are more collectors than bikers.

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH: The other Used Car available in Hong Kong - the rusty old Japanese 'city' car advertised in supermarkets, on notice-boards at private clubs and occasionally in the newspaper. These are normally available for ridiculously low sums because the car's expat owner is leaving and wants to raise a bit of pocket money by selling the lovable old banger.

FANS SAY: There's nowhere in the world like this place. Take a taxi through town and you're surrounded by more luxury vehicles than you see in a James Bond movie.

CRITICS SAY: Yes, and they're all stuck in gridlock. There's nowhere in Hong Kong you can use these sports cars - they were hardly invented for a 60-metre blast of acceleration up Cotton Tree Drive followed by a traffic jam all the way home.