Despite the looming Oct 1 deadline for cars to be registered to enter Malaysia, just under 74,000 Singapore-registered vehicles have had applications for the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) submitted since Aug 15 - when online registration began.
This is just a fraction of the 200,000 to 300,000 Singapore- registered private vehicles that the Malaysian Ministry of Transport expects to be enrolled by the end of this year. The VEP, which has a five-year validity, costs vehicle owners an administration fee of RM10 (S$3.30). Upon payment, each owner gets a radio-frequency identification tag for his car windshield.
Unregistered vehicles will be refused entry to Malaysia via the Causeway in Johor Baru and the Second Link crossing in Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah. But cars can also be registered on the spot at the two entry points.
Many Singaporeans cite an onerous registration process and a problematic website for holding back.
Others had questions. One Singaporean wondered if he would be liable to pay Malaysian road fines incurred by a new owner if his car had been sold. Another questioned the need to supply his chassis number, which he deemed to be sensitive information.
Mr Choo Chee Kong, 56, works in mining and drives to Malaysia once a week on business.
He found the registration form overly detailed, saying: "When I finally went online to register, I filled in all the fields, clicked next and the website didn't respond. I am waiting for the improved version.
"I am fretting about what is going to happen at the Causeway on Oct 1. If they really pull your car aside there and then to register, there are going to be massive jams."
A Malaysian Ministry of Transport spokesman admitted teething issues with the website and appealed for "some time during this initial period to fine-tune the system".
He told The Straits Times that the Oct 1 deadline for VEP registration may be pushed back again. It was initially scheduled to begin on Sept 1 after being postponed from Aug 1.
"We are trying to make it, but we will make an announcement again as to when," he said, adding that the new RM20 road charge for each vehicle per entry will be implemented on the same date as the VEP.
The ministry is also looking into simplifying the registration process, but details such as car chassis numbers are necessary, he said, because such information is needed to track foreign cars that enter Malaysia. "Car plate numbers can be falsified... but chassis numbers cannot be changed.
"Let's say a Singapore-registered car is involved in a crime or accident in Malaysia. From the car's chassis number we can identify the owner of the car and the history of the vehicle."
The spokesman said the VEP system will also make it easier to track unpaid road fines chalked up by Singapore-registered vehicles.
Those with unpaid fines may not be allowed to leave or enter Malaysia unless payment is made.
The spokesman also urged car owners to inform the ministry if they have sold their cars. Their VEPs will then be cancelled. The new owners will be told to re-register the cars if they want to visit Malaysia.
"If you allow the new owner to use your tag, you will be liable for any offence that he commits in Malaysia," the spokesman clarified.
Malaysia's VEP will initially involve foreign-registered vehicles entering the country via Johor, and will later be implemented at the country's other 12 road entry points.
On Aug 1 last year, Singapore increased the cost of the VEP for foreign vehicles entering the Republic from $20 to $35 a day. It also raised the cost of the Goods Vehicle Permit from $10 to $40.