COE bidding exercises for the month of April will be suspended.
The move was announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The month-long heightened safe-distancing measures will take effect from April 7 to May 4 2020.
The authority said it will continue to monitor the situation closely and update on subsequent bidding exercises. There are normally two bidding exercises each month.
In the meantime, 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.
Because car dealerships and showrooms are closed during this period, COE bidding exercises could result in insufficient bids. This could then result in COE premiums crashing, according to observers.
The possible suspension of COE tenders was first reported by The Straits Times last Friday.
Industry players interviewed then said that if COE bidding was to carry on, it would mean car sales would also continue.
But because sale of vehicles is not considered an essential service, it must be suspended in the light of the tightened pandemic measures announced last Friday.
But with tenders this month now suspended, motor dealers said uncertainty looms.
One asked: “There are a lot of unanswered questions that we (still have for) LTA, like what happens to the April quota – whether it will be combined with May’s, or be distributed evenly over the remaining months of the year.”
“And what if the extension continues (beyond April)? What about car orders on 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 they were only for a few days.
Ms Jasmmine Wong, chief executive of Inchcape Singapore and Greater China, said: “This decision is logical given that 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 resume.”
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.