Certificate of entitlement (COE) prices for cars ended substantially lower at the latest tender yesterday as consumer sentiment took a beating from the developing coronavirus crisis.
The COE premium for cars up to 1,600cc and 130bhp fell by 14.3 per cent to close at a three-month low of $30,010. Those for cars above 1,600cc or 130bhp tumbled by 18.1 per cent to $30,890 - the lowest in almost 10 years.
The price for the Open COE, which can be used for any vehicle type except motorcycles, but which ends up mostly for bigger cars, slid by 6.9 per cent to reach a 13-month low of $34,900. The motorcycle premium fell by 4.5 per cent to $4,401.
The commercial vehicle COE price was the exception, finishing $12 higher at $25,013.
Motor industry players said the viral outbreak was not the only dampener. The Chinese New Year break also resulted in fewer working days, and thus, fewer bookings collected.
But the overriding factor for the price drops - the sharpest in recent memory and which came despite a smaller quota from this month - was the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor group Prime, said prices might have fallen more if not for lingering "support from the Singapore Motorshow" last month.
"This is just the beginning," he said of the effect of the viral scare. "The market is super quiet now. It's going to get worse."
Motor traders said the next two tenders will be indicative of how badly the virus is affecting business. They added that private-hire companies like Grab and Gojek have already pulled back on fleet renewal and expansion plans. This also contributed to the sharp COE falls.
Others, however, see a bright spark, as more people might turn to cars as fears of contamination from other transport modes increase.
Indeed, the impact which the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis had on COE prices was muted in relation to its impact on public transport ridership, which fell by up to 30 per cent.