COVID-19 SPECIAL

Vehicle sales putter along amid coronavirus outbreak

People were still buying and selling vehicles during the circuit breaker period which started on April 7, although transactions were far fewer than during normal times.

According to the latest statistics from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), 1,646 new vehicles were registered last month - down from an average of 7,200 a month in the first quarter. The bulk of registrations were for cars (41 per cent) and motorcycles (36 per cent).

Among the cars, Toyota (88 units), Honda (157) and Mercedes-Benz (198) made up two-thirds.

Used vehicles also changed hands. Last month, 3,075 second-hand cars were bought and sold - down from a monthly average of 7,000 in the first quarter.

Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz made up just over half of these transactions.

Motor traders said most of the new registrations were done during the first week of April, before the circuit breaker kicked in.

For those done after April 7, some were with certificates of entitlement (COEs) that dealers had secured before the circuit breaker.

COE tenders for April and May are suspended.

The sale of vehicles is considered to be non-essential, even if LTA allows registrations and ownership transfers to take place virtually.

 
 
 

According to industry players, most of the sales were done by parallel importers and used-car dealers.

A senior manager of a Japanese distributor said: "If you cross-reference to the average OMV (open market value) to see what are the models registered, you can tell most were not from authorised dealers."

Indeed, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are the top three brands sold by parallel importers.

Another manager said used-car sales continued during the circuit breaker.

The Straits Times reported last week that some sellers provided contactless deliveries, such as by towing cars to customers' homes.

Asked to comment on the motor transactions, a Ministry of Trade and Industry spokesman said: "Motor dealers are not allowed to open their shopfronts and conduct test drives. However, they can continue to sell their vehicles online and fulfil the orders through delivery during the circuit breaker period."

Meanwhile, industry watchers are expecting COE bidding to resume next month.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2020, with the headline 'Vehicle sales putter along amid outbreak'. Print Edition | Subscribe