Will grim outlook for bike COEs persist?
When Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums for motorcycles hit a record high of $5,800 in February, both dealers and riders felt the pinch.
New bike registrations for that month also hit a record low of 485, compared with 729 in the same month last year.
This probably has to do with the monthly quota for motorbike COEs dropping to 578 in February, not much more than half the quota of 992 in January last year, sparking a bidding war that pushed up bike COE premiums.
And the outlook for bike COEs will remain grim unless concessions are made by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association (SMCTA) said.
Most in the motorcycle fraternity believe that increasing the bike COE quota will stop premiums from spiralling upwards.
SMCTA has proposed a "zero per cent" contribution of bike COEs to Category E, which is also known as the Open Category.
It also requested LTA to "re-allocate" more than 3,500 bike COEs that were transferred to the car categories in the 1990s, on top of allowing a bike growth of 2 per cent a year for the next five years, which will add about 230 COEs a month.
In an e-mail reply to queries by The New Paper, SMCTA president Tony Yeo said its requests had mostly been ignored.
"It (motorcycle growth) has been very steadily low. Our growth on average is 0.7 per cent a year versus the car growth of 5.2 per cent a year," he said.
Figures show the motorcycle population grew from 136,122 in 2004 to 144,404 last year, while cars and station wagons increased from 417,103 to 616,609 during the same period.
Added Mr Yeo: "The past 10 years have clearly shown the big skew towards car growth. The target of 3 per cent growth of vehicle population was not across the board due to the Open Category.
But LTA said that steps have been taken to stabilise the supply of COEs in each category.
Its spokesman said in an e-mail reply: "As we recognise the trend of Category E COEs going towards the registration of Category B cars (above 1,600cc) at the expense of other categories, the Category E contribution rate has been reduced from 15 per cent to 10 per cent with effect from February 2015.
"This is to maintain a more stable supply of COEs in each COE category."
Theoretically, this should have boosted the bike COE quota from February, but it actually dropped to 578 from the 634 a month from the last quarter because of other factors at play, such as the number of bikes being deregistered.
It has been suggested in Parliament that motorbike COEs should be split into those for motorcycles 200cc or below and those above 200cc.
This would help those who rely on bikes for their livelihood, like transport riders, who usually own small-capacity bikes.
Around 70 per cent of the bikes here are 200cc or below.
Regarding this, the LTA spokesman maintained: "Splitting Category D further would result in a much smaller quota available in each sub-category.
"This may lead to more volatility in quota and prices."
SMCTA also takes issue with the LTA view that the "contribution of motorcycles to congestion is not minimal as the motorcycle Passenger Car Unit (PCU) is 0.7".
In layman's terms, this means a motorcycle takes up 70 per cent of a car's space on Singapore roads.
SMCTA cited a lower PCU of between 0.28 and 0.33 derived from other studies to support its argument that motorbikes contribute minimally to congestion.
It said some European studies have shown that a motorcycle's PCU decreases when traffic comes to a standstill because bikers tend to travel in between vehicles.
Said Mr Yeo: "We do not understand how the 0.7 PCU came about. We have requested from LTA the Nanyang Technological University study done more than a quarter century ago that derived this figure, but were told that the study was not available."
BY THE numbers
The size of the motorcycle population in Singapore last year. Motorcycle growth has been steadily low over the past decade; indeed, the figure for 2004 was 136,122.