Coronavirus: April COE bidding suspended but questions remain

This is likely to be the longest suspension of bidding since it began in 1990. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Certificate of Entitlement (COE) bidding exercises in April will be suspended with the month-long heightened distancing measures taking effect on Tuesday (April 7), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced on Sunday afternoon.

The authority said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and update on subsequent bidding exercises beyond April. There are normally two bidding exercises each month.

The LTA said motor dealers may use their existing stock of certificates to register new vehicles.

The multi-ministry task force announced an elevated set of safe distancing measures to prevent further local transmission of Covid-19, effective from April 7 to May 4.

With the closure of motor vehicle dealerships and showrooms during this stay-home period, bidding exercises could result in insufficient bids and subsequently premiums crashing, observers said.

The possible suspension of COE tenders was first reported by The Straits Times last Friday.

Industry players interviewed then said that if COE tenders were to carry on, it would mean car sales would carry on.

But because sale of vehicles is not considered an essential service, it has to be suspended in light of the tightened pandemic measures announced last Friday.

But with April tenders now suspended, motor dealers said uncertainty looms.

One asked: "There are a lot of unanswered question that we are still seeking from LTA, like what happens to the April quota - whether it will be combined with May's, or be distributed evenly over remaining months of the year.

"And what if the extension continues (beyond April)?

"What about car orders in hand which are pending COE? We need to give customers answers by Monday."

Others asked what would happen to COEs which are expiring soon, since the consumption of COEs is often tied to car sales as well as the trade-in of used vehicles.

This postponement of COE bidding is the longest one since the vehicle quota system started in 1990. There were a couple of other postponements, but there were only for a few days.

Ms Jasmmine Wong, chief executive of Inchcape Singapore & Greater China, said: "This decision is logical given all car showrooms, as part of non-essential services, will be closed till May 4.

"We are seeking clarifications from LTA regarding the phasing of April's quota so we can prepare and provide good customer service once operations are resumed."

Mr Teo Hock Seng, executive chairman of Hyundai agent Komoco, said: "It is a fair call. The motor trade will therefore be shut down for the sale of motor cars for four weeks."

The Straits Times understands only essential vehicle repairs can be carried out during this period.

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