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130 hp power limit for Cat A too complex to implement

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IT IS safe to say the folks at the automotive policy and planning unit of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) won't be head-hunted by Apple anytime soon –- if only because the American company's core philosophy of elegant simplicity would be lost on them.
Witness the tangled web that is the certificate of entitlement (COE) system and how it has become even more complicated since February, when a power limit of 130 hp was adopted for the small-car category of COEs (that is, for cars with 1,600 cc engines or smaller).
The cap was added to the 24-year-old scheme that auctions off various categories of vehicle registration licences for social equity reasons – to ensure that Category A better serves mass-market car buyers, after worrying numbers of luxury models invaded Cat A in recent years, cornering the less expensive COEs.
While the objective is thoroughly noble, the result has been less so, both for consumers and distributors.
For distributors, the homologation process (for approving cars before they go on sale) that once took a maximum of three weeks is now anywhere from 2-4 months; there is no certainty on exactly how long it will take.
For consumers, the delay means the new model they were eyeing may not arrive in time to replace their ageing rides; they may have to settle for something older and less advanced – even though they are already paying 3-4 times more than what that same car costs in another country.
But why has the approval process been extended in the first place? One amusing rumour is that LTA hopes to suppress new car demand and hence keep COE prices down.
The simple reason, though, is that car distributors will presumably try and circumvent the 130 hp rule. So, to thwart this, each new model will be tested on a dynamometer.
This is a device for measuring power and torque, but many are concerned because they do not know which make and model LTA has chosen. Different dynos have different baselines and will produce varying results. Then there is also a difference between dynamometers for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel- drive and all-wheel-drive cars.
LTA has, however, given the assurance that a "correction factor" will be applied to the power figure measured at the wheels.
But the experts say that the correction factor varies according to different power trains. There is no internationally recognised correction factor or range of factors. So the question is: will LTA apply more than one correction factor, and how will it be determined for each car?
The choice of a 130 hp limit to distinguish between a Cat A and Cat B car is already a unique standard, and it is noteworthy for having been adopted by the government agency of a non-vehicle manufacturing country. But to attempt to test each new model to ensure its conformity to this new rule may require a deeper understanding of engine-manufacturing technology.
Because even though an engine leaves a factory with a certain horsepower specification, the actual output recorded on a dyno will also vary according to the air pressure in the tyres and atmosphere, the type of engine lubrication used and the varying tolerance of each engine component.
That is why manufacturers usually quote a more conservative power rating to account for these factors.
If testing yields different results, bitter arguments may ensue - resulting in even more confusion and further delays in the approval process.
For some, the COE quota system before February may have been unwieldy for its many rules and changes. But now, it seems the system has veered into a black hole with everyone in the dark about what is happening, except LTA.
Those in the industry who had wanted LTA to apply the open market value (OMV) of a vehicle as a COE benchmark have been repeatedly given the rationale for the power-limit rule. But even if they accept the explanation, something must be wrong if a system becomes unnecessarily complex - or, worse, opaque.

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Heartbreakid Jul 31 2014 05:47 AM

Before this implementation, LTA seeks for member of the public contribution on this new COE system. There are so many suggestions that are more logical, workable and seemingly effective. But in the end, LTA decided to choose the lame way to "solve" an easy problem.


LTA wanted to do a dyno to confirm the manufacturers spec when manufacturer has provided the figures. This has no doubt about LTA seeking for more trouble for themslves more  than making things difficult for the car makers. Due to our local car control and island's size, by setting such an irrational rule, it wasn't be surprising that if car makers decided to pull out sales for local market because it is so small in sales figures for them.


I do applaud for LTA for such troubled moves just to solve a problem they have created. While our society is widening the gap between the rich and the poor. This new system is trying to further widening the gap to distinguish between luxury and non luxury.

Zyklon Jul 31 2014 07:58 AM

Question: Could it be possible that temasek or st is going into dyno supplier business?

Turboflat4 Jul 31 2014 09:33 AM

LTA wanted to do a dyno to confirm the manufacturers spec when manufacturer has provided the figures. This has no doubt about LTA seeking for more trouble for themslves more  than making things difficult for the car makers.

I hope to god a major car manufacturer gets fed up with this policy and sues LTA for overrating their car model's dyno figure and edging it into a less affordable/more expensive category. Dyno figures are notoriously inaccurate as a single measure of power and torque - they are often fickle and variable between different dyno models and with variation of parameters. The best use of dynos is to compare "before" and "after" mods on the same platform, and calculate the % improvement and changes in the shape of the power/torque band. To use it to "verify" manufacturer ratings is a fool's errand.
EasyGoing Jul 31 2014 10:01 AM

3 cheers to our LTA for "creative" policies not forgetting the taxi business model which has the most interesting fare structure, I dare say, in the world.

drivinghazard Jul 31 2014 10:49 AM

There are other less sophisticated ways to categorise the mass market vs luxurious cars. A more powerful car may not be a more luxurious car. I still feel most straightforward and relevant is the OMV. Although the OMV will be abused + currency fluctuations, the real price of the car is still the best determinant of luxury vs mass mkt

Rm2s Jul 31 2014 11:30 AM

It is often said that COE is priced based on market forces. This "market forces" is also heavily dependent on changes to government policies. Since regulator risk cannot be removed in this instance, fairness can still be had if LTA is willing to consider taking "market power" out of the whole demand/supply curve.


What I am talking about is to remove dealers from bidding the COE on behalf of their customers. Dealers job is to sell car, let them sell cars without COE. Public intention is to buy a car, and part of that process is to obtain the COE, let the public bid on their own COE, once a COE is obtained, we then visit showroom to choose the car we wanted. It is transparent, it is fair.


Dealers has market power, they lump everything into this thing called profit margin to forced consumer into buying a car at a particular price, this then give them room to bid the COE in bulk. Remove them the right to bid, the price will truly reflect the actual market price for the COE.

Zaxx Jul 31 2014 01:33 PM
I feel not only apple but as long as the private companies are not glc-linked, the folks at lta ll not stand a chance of being employed.
Watwheels Jul 31 2014 09:39 PM

It's not too complex, it's just too tedious.

I think they put a lot of effort to go catch a worm and then put it inside their butt hole.

Jerrcik Jul 31 2014 09:46 PM

 So many people had given great and feasible ideas to this COE system. No doubt COE is necessary as our island is small but the way LTA runs it, it is as if that they employ kindergarten kids to to run the system. 


Then again, do the LTA guys know anything about cars?

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