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Already reeling, motorcycle dealers bemoan plan to cut bikes' growth rate to zero

SINGAPORE — Motorcycle dealers held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night (Oct 25) to discuss their response to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) announcement on Monday that there would be zero growth for motorcycles from February next year.

Generic shots of motorbikes at BMW Motorrad Singapore showroom at Alexandra Road, on Feb 22, 2017. For story on higher taxes for expensive bikes. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

Generic shots of motorbikes at BMW Motorrad Singapore showroom at Alexandra Road, on Feb 22, 2017. For story on higher taxes for expensive bikes. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — Motorcycle dealers held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night (Oct 25) to discuss their response to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) announcement on Monday that there would be zero growth for motorcycles from February next year.

Already reeling from recent policies that have resulted in motorcycles becoming costlier and scarcer, the latest news – that the vehicle growth rate for cars and motorcycles would be cut from the current 0.25 per cent to zero – marked another step back for the industry. It will also lead at least one food delivery company to depend more on bicycles going forward.

Foodpanda told TODAY three-quarters of its riders use motorbikes and it hopes to cut the proportion to half by next year, in part to cope with the shrinking supply.

“We anticipate that bicycle delivery will be much, much bigger in 2018,” said the company’s managing director Luc Andreani, who said this could be achieved with the large pool of dockless shared bicycles.

The firm has received a significant number of applications from cyclists and users of personal mobility devices – mostly from students who can neither drive nor afford to buy motorbikes, he said.

“This is bad news for the industry at a time when the motorbike population is already facing a steady decline,” lamented Mr Norman Lee, honorary secretary of the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association.

In February this year, a tax called the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) was raised for motorbikes with Open Market Value exceeding S$5,000. From 15 per cent of the ARF, the rate was raised to 50 or 100 per cent of the ARF. From next year, motorcycles larger than 200CC will have to comply with more stringent Euro 4 emissions standards here. The smaller motorbikes will follow suit by 2020.

Traders cheered when a portion of Certificates of Entitlement from de-registered motorbikes no longer had to go to the Open Category for bidding from May. It was something the association had lobbied for, but the concession feels like “cold comfort” now, said Mr Lee.

“Each time we move one step forward, we are forced to take a few steps back,” he said, adding there could have been more consultation with industry players.

The number of motorbikes here has been shrinking in recent years – decreasing 4.22 per cent since 2010 to 141,893 as of last month. During the same period, the population of cars and taxis increased by 1.62 per cent to 633,929.

Things will get more challenging for those who depend on the two wheelers to make a living, said Mr Eugene Mah, managing director of motorbike distributor Mah.

“As we advance towards becoming a car-lite society, we need to consider the statistics. Motorcycles, which contribute less to carbon emissions and virtually nothing to traffic congestion, only make up 15 per cent of the total vehicle population,” he said.

The LTA cited limited scope for further expansion of the road network and continued improvements to the public transport system for the reduction in vehicle growth rate, which would exclude goods vehicles and buses until the first quarter of 2021 to give businesses more time to adapt.

The shift to zero growth for motorcycles could mean a reduction of about 350 COEs a year.

Mr Eric Ng, manager of motorcycle retailer Wing Fuat Trading, was stoic about the latest round of bad news, saying the cut is “not really a big leap”.

“This is not the first time growth rate has been reduced. The market has adapted to it already,” he said.

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