A quiet Good Friday at car showrooms even after drop in COE

CAR shoppers were expected to flock to showrooms this weekend to take advantage of the recent drop in certificate of entitlement (COE) prices for small cars.

But Good Friday was noticeably quieter on the Leng Kee Road stretch when The Straits Times visited yesterday afternoon, compared to two weekends ago. Then, the Government's drastic car loan curbs and introduction of a tiered tax system saw big car COEs tumble and dealers report sales up to three times the average.

In the latest tender which closed on Wednesday, premiums for cars up to 1,600cc fell by 14 per cent to a six-month low of $64,209. Conversely, premiums for cars above 1,600cc soared by 27.2 per cent to $73,900.

An employee at BMW agent Performance Motors, who declined to be named, said it was "like a fish market the last couple of weeks", adding: "But as you can see it is not as busy today."

Big cars such as the BMW 5 series and Audi A6 continue to be popular. Pilot Sanjay Kaushik, 47, who was looking for a big car, said: "Even though they are not as cheap as two weeks ago, the big cars remain appealing as the COE prices are still much lower than they were just 1½ months ago."

In February, COE prices for big cars hit $92,667.

One factor that could have contributed to the smaller crowds was the afternoon downpour. A banker who wanted to be known only as Michael, 40, said: "I was waiting for the rain to subside so I could go for a test drive. With lower visibility in the rain, I won't be able to get a proper feel of the vehicle."

Brands reporting "healthy" foot traffic attributed it to newly released models, such as the Nissan Sylphy sedan and the Porsche Cayman, or roadshows such as Volvo's at VivoCity.

Mr Victor Kwan, managing director at Volvo agent Wearnes Automotive, said 70 per cent of cars sold yesterday were small, reversing last weekend's trend. He said: "The overall car buying interest is still there. It should still be better than an average weekend."

waltsim@sph.com.sg