Study impact of new private-hire car market

With the Government sending a clear signal that it does not intend to protect the taxi industry from competition from private-hire cars, there seems to be a rush from new and established players to enter the market ("SMRT Taxis enters private-hire car market"; Tuesday, and "More taxi firms eyeing Uber business model"; last Thursday).

Uber-owned Lion City Rentals submitted more than 800 bids during a recent certificate of entitlement (COE) tender ("Uber's expansion drive changes the game for cars"; last Saturday), and SMRT Taxis has plans to take up another 300.

This will take up a hefty chunk of COE quotas and put pressure on COE prices, to the dismay of private individuals hoping to buy a car.

It is also not clear if private-hire car drivers will have the same mileage requirements that taxi drivers currently have to maintain.

If this is not the case, it will turn long-term car hire into an alternative form of private-car ownership, circumventing measures such as the car loan cap and the operating assumptions of the COE system as a means to regulate private cars.

These new developments also change the nature of the sharing economy, where companies do not own assets but, rather, facilitate the sharing of individually owned assets.

The Government should make it clear if it is its intention to migrate the ownership of cars from individuals to companies.

That will certainly change expectations and dynamics.

The impact of these changes in our private-car landscape will require study and clarification.

Wong Weng Fai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Study impact of new private-hire car market'. Print Edition | Subscribe