Spike in COE prices the biggest in more than 10 years

Prices soar in almost all categories, surprising many industry experts

An earthquake which is sending shock waves across the trade.

That was how one motor industry player described the sharp increase in certificate of entitlement (COE) prices at the latest tender yesterday.

COE prices for cars up to 1,600cc and 130bhp closed 8.9 per cent higher to hit a four-year high of $49,640. COE for cars above 1,600cc or 130bhp shot up by 17 per cent to finish at $61,190 - its highest since September 2015.

Open COE, which can be used for any vehicle type except motorcycles but which ends up mostly for bigger cars, soared by 19 per cent to end at $62,100, its highest since July 2015.

Motor dealers said the spike in COE prices - the biggest in more than 10 years - was unexpected.

Singapore Vehicle Traders Association president Eddie Loo said: "Who has this kind of margin to bid? What is the rush? This is panic bidding. It's crazy."

Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor group Prime, attributed the rare surge to three factors: Buoyant demand for luxury makes like Mercedes-Benz and BMW; a depreciation of the yen which gives dealers of Japanese brands extra margin to bid; and the COE supply shrinking by 6.2 to 38.6 per cent from next month.

"Of course, with these results, used car dealers are laughing to the bank," Mr Neo said, referring to the overnight appreciation of vehicle inventory held by second-hand dealers.

The commercial vehicle COE was not spared, either. In fact, it chalked the biggest increase of 21.8 per cent to close at $44,001.

Motorcycle premium, meanwhile, ended unchanged at $8,000, among the highest prices for this category since the COE system started in 1990. Motorbike COE supply will grow by 13.4 per cent next month.

Most industry players expect prices to ease in the coming tenders.

"Prices should turn around from August, when more cars will be scrapped," Mr Neo said. "Those cars which had COE extended by five years in 2016 will also start to be scrapped."

Five-year COE extensions cannot be extended further, unlike 10-year extensions.

But Inchcape Greater China and Singapore chief executive Jasmmine Wong, who oversees Toyota, Lexus and Suzuki sales here, reckons it will get worse before it gets better.

"It's a bloodbath," Ms Wong said. "But I think prices will go to $70,000 soon because there are still a lot of unfulfilled bids."

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.