COVID-19 SPECIAL

Allow vehicle sales to resume, say motor traders

Appeal sent to PM and other ministers cites industry's sizeable contribution to economy

Motor traders have sent an appeal to the Government to allow vehicle sales to resume when the circuit breaker is lifted next month.

The 378-member Singapore Vehicle Traders Association sent the letter last Friday to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, among others.

Citing the trade's sizeable contribution to the economy and jobs, the association said it is crucial for business to resume so as to stem millions in losses the industry has already incurred since Covid-19 hit Singapore in January.

It asserted that car viewings in showrooms and test-drives can be managed safely.

"We believe the risk involved is no greater than being a passenger in a taxi or private-hire vehicle, which continue to operate," the appeal letter read.

"Nor is it greater than the risk in a supermarket environment, with a considerably larger number of people congregated in a location."

It said strict appointment-based viewing and test-drives with safe distancing measures - including mandatory wipedowns and use of the SafeEntry digital check-in - can be implemented to make vehicle transactions safe.

The association is also asking for clarity on the certificate of entitlement (COE) quota, especially since bidding has been suspended for two months now.

The May-July quota, which is usually announced in April, has yet to be announced.

It said motor dealers have "significant" amounts of funds tied up in COE bids because customers facing sudden economic hardship have cancelled orders.

The latest bids were made before the circuit breaker period started on April 7.

"We therefore propose that the authorities allow car dealers to cancel their COE bids and be refunded their monies in order to get through this period," it said.

Likewise, consumers who need to dispose of vehicles to lighten their "financial commitments in view of the tough economic situation" should be allowed to drive them to a dealership.

The association is also asking for more Export Processing Zones (EPZs) - where deregistered vehicles are stored before an overseas buyer is secured - to be set up. It said the three EPZs here are full.

"A possible solution to quickly add capacity is to temporarily designate free trade zones operated by Jurong Port and PSA Corp as EPZs," it added.

The association said the automotive industry is a key component of the Singapore economy.

Citing findings by research firm Euromonitor International, it said $6.3 billion worth of luxury cars were transacted last year.

It said this was comparable to the $6.4 billion turnover of the local airline industry.

"Its value will exceed that of Singapore's airline industry when we include economy cars," the association added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2020, with the headline 'Allow vehicle sales to resume, say motor traders'. Print Edition | Subscribe