Series seen as short form for Singapore; due for bidding later this month
SGP number plate creating a stir

THREE letters are creating some excitement among those in the automobile trade and they are not in any way unprintable. The SGP series of car registration numbers is due to be offered for bidding later this month and many are waiting in great anticipation.

'SGP is seen as the short form for Singapore, so this is not a normal series like, say, SGA or SGF,' explains Geoveen Hi, sales manager of Chevrolet dealer Alpine Motors and an experienced bidder of registration numbers.

Mr Hi expects the most popular numbers - those from 1 to 10 - to fetch even more than for a relatively 'ordinary' series.

But not all numbers are equal and among the top 10, the numbers 1, 3, 7 and 8 usually fetch the highest bids, with the most prestigious likely to be SGP 1 E. 'This would be the most significant number because it can mean I am number one in Singapore',' he explains.

According to the Land Transport Authority, the highest bid amount received so far has been $118,000 in 1995 although no registration details were given.

More recently in 2001, the manager of a Japanese dealership claims that a licence plate bearing the number 1 was clinched by a businessman in a tender for about $110,000. 'This particular plate also had very nice letters,' he recalls.

Equally nice-looking single-digit numbers in a 'normal' series usually go for at least $10,000, says Mr Hi. For example, the number 8 in the SGA series would have cost its owner $15,000 and above. But he expects SGP 8 L to carry a premium.

'I think it will go for a minimum of $20,000,' he speculates. He should know. He paid more than $10,000 for one of his single-digit plates, SGC 6 K, which has sentimental value because the number and the letters each represent a birth date and the initials of his family.

'The value of the registration increases if the letters are meaningful and not inauspicious,' said the manager. In general, the number 4 and the letters C, X, Y and Z - especially as a suffix - are considered taboo for some Chinese because of their supposed association with death, among other things.

But the recent SGH series was also considered unacceptable to some car owners because it is also the abbreviation for Singapore General Hospital. SGD, though, was a special series because it can mean Sing dollar.

The minimum amount for a bid is $1,000. The form and a cashiers or money order are then submitted to the LTA office in Sin Ming Drive.

An LTA spokesman says between 1,000 and 1,200 bids are received for each series for cars, with some $600,000 to $1 million collected, depending on the popularity of the prefixes. 'This is revenue payable to the government's Consolidated Fund,' he adds.

Such bidding became more popular among car dealers and others involved in the trade when in August 2002, the LTA allowed owners of existing vehicles to bid for new registration numbers to replace their current numbers. The fee for such a replacement is $315, including GST, and appeals to those who buy a used vehicle with a number which doesn't quite meet their expectations. But the change in regulations also allowed dealers to snap up new registration numbers and offer them for sale later by means of a series of vehicle ownership transfers.

But it seems that not everyone will find an SGP plate to be much different from previous recent series.

'It's true that an SGP number plate may be more meaningful but if our Rolls-Royce customers don't already have their own special registration, they would rather look at getting something older from the resale market, like the E series,' says Andrew Ang, sales manager of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Singapore. 'Such a registration also has fewer characters and is therefore, more prestigious.'