“Face” Matters

Our senior writer ponders the “taboo” of buying a passenger car model that also does duty as a taxi.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Our senior writer ponders the “taboo” of buying a passenger car model that also does duty as a taxi.
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DURING a recent work trip to Germany, I noticed that most of the taxis plying the roads happened to be MPVs. Many of them were Volkswagen Tourans.

These cabs were convenient, because there were five of us in the group. Instead of taking two regular saloon cabs, we could fit in a single Touran.

As we passed several privately owned Tourans, it occurred to me that this was a sight that we probably wouldn’t witness back home.

In Singapore, any car model that’s utilised as a taxi – with the exception of Mercedes’ E-Class – is repulsive to car buyers.

For instance, when ComfortDelGro began replacing its Toyota Crowns with Hyundai Sonatas in 2007, buyers immediately lost interest in the model.

In fact, this episode was probably why the succeeding Sonata model, launched in 2009, was instead marketed as the i45 here.

More recently, sales of the last-gen Toyota Prius reportedly dipped when SMRT began utilising them as taxis.

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The concepts of “giving face” and “having face” aren’t strange to me. But I remain puzzled as to why they come into play when cars are involved.

To me, the only reasons to feel ashamed of your car are if it has been modified in a ghastly manner, is filthy, falling apart, or all of the above.

Otherwise, I don’t see anything humiliating about driving the same make and model that’s used as a taxi, unless it’s painted in Comfort blue, CityCab yellow, SMRT maroon or Trans-Cab red.

You wouldn’t want random people trying to hail your car, and screaming at you for driving past them.

Interestingly, there’s no backlash against the numerous makes and models used by Uber and Grab drivers. Could it be because these cars aren’t liveried?

"Jeremy Thinks That Motorists Should Be Happy to Own the Same Model Used by Taxi Firms, Because They’ll Have a Workhorse of a Car."
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