Uber bids continue to prop up car COE prices

One Marina Boulevard on March 22, 2016
One Marina Boulevard on March 22, 2016 ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Certificate of entitlement (COE) premiums for cars dipped at the latest tender yesterday. But they would have fallen more dramatically if not for strong bidding from Uber.

The COE price for cars up to 1,600cc and 130bhp finished 1.8 per cent lower at $47,020, and that for cars above 1,600cc or 130bhp closed 3.6 per cent lower at $49,156.

The premium for Open COE, which can be used for any vehicle type but ends up mostly for bigger cars, bucked the trend to end 1.4 per cent higher at $49,700.

Motor traders pointed out that the Uber-owned Lion City Rental submitted 870 bids in all three COE categories, and was successful for all but 30 of them.

In the previous tender two weeks ago, Lion City Rental was successful in all its 90 bids in the Open category.

Together with the bids it submitted in two previous tenders, Lion City has secured about 1,700 car COEs - all within just two months of bidding.

Echoing the frustration of car dealers, Mr Ron Lim, general manager of Nissan agent Tan Chong Motor, said: "Retail demand has slowed down quite drastically. But COE prices continue to be supported by all these bids from private- hire companies. When will their appetite be satisfied?"

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had earlier barred taxi companies from bidding for COEs so as not to overheat premiums.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore had also introduced car loan curbs to do the same thing.

But Uber and other private-hire firms are not bound by these restrictions.

The LTA said last month that private-hire vehicles can lower the demand for privately owned cars, but added that it would continue to "monitor the situation".

Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor group Prime, said Uber and other private-hire firms cannot keep up the demand.

"There just aren't enough drivers," Mr Neo said. "And the turnover for such drivers is very high. So I believe this cannot be sustained. They will stop bidding, and premiums will fall."

Meanwhile, the commercial vehicle COE premium rose by 1.7 per cent to end at $43,002 yesterday. Motorcycle premium was flat, ending just $1 higher at $6,303.

Christopher Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Uber bids continue to prop up car COE prices'. Subscribe