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A Trip Down Memory Lane: The Unforgettable $2 COE Crash of November 2008

In November 2008, the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) market witnessed a jaw-dropping event when Category A COE premiums, which had previously soared to $10,455, experienced a historic nosedive to an unprecedented $2. This shocking development unfolded during the COE open bidding exercise for cars with engines up to 1600 cc.

During this memorable bidding session, a staggering 1,852 bids were submitted for the available 1,851 certificates of entitlement. The lowest successful bid ultimately set the record for the lowest COE price ever. While this remarkably low COE result brought joy to successful bidders, it undoubtedly left one individual rueful, possibly the person who ventured with a mere token $1 bid.

In the preceding COE bidding exercise, the Category A COE had closed at a lofty $10,455. The drastic plunge to $2 took everyone by surprise, from new-car sellers along the Leng Kee to Ubi stretch, to the delighted car buyers who secured the cheapest COE in history. Additionally, some fortunate buyers even enjoyed COE rebates from the dealers.

Several factors were attributed to this extraordinary $2 COE event, including an abundant supply of COEs compared to market demand in 2008, a gloomy economic sentiment in Singapore, and the ripple effects of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

Following the $2 COE shocker, the government opted to enhance the stability of the COE bidding system by merging the four COE categories into two. Now, 15 years later, the question arises: Will we witness the return of a single-digit COE? The prospect seems extremely unlikely unless there is a substantial shift in the demand-supply dynamics, with demand significantly outpacing supply once again.

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