Tham seeks clarification on comments for illegally modified vehicles

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

Lately, an issue that has been creating waves in the local motoring community (aside from COE) is that of illegal vehicle modifications.


Here are some excerpts from recent news reports:


Channel NewsAsia, 28 July 2012 – Illegal vehicle modifications on the rise

(read full article here)

  • “…almost 30 per cent jump in the number from 2011.”
  • Between January and April this year, the number of summons issued by LTA averages at 784 each month, compared to a monthly average of 611 last year.”
  • “Drivers who modify their cars call it their “interest” and “passion”.”
  • There is even a car show and competition just to flaunt the many flashy modifications.”
  • “The probability of an illegally modified car going up in flames after encountering an impact has a 70 per cent higher risk relative to cars that did not undergo any illegal modifications.”
  • “ is not advisable to carry out any illegal modifications as every car has been designed to its optimum condition.”


I do have a few sets of comments but I just want to say that, increasing the checks and hence, resulting in more being caught does not necessarily mean there is a rise of illegal vehicle modifications. I would actually think that there are less owners modifying (legal and illegally) their rides due to the various constraints and consequent hassle.


Next, the article said “Experts that Channel NewsAsia spoke to…” and then Hanip of Hanip Automobiles was quoted. I have met Hanip once and I have nothing against him, but I just want to point out that it is a workshop that focuses on general maintenance and servicing of vehicles, and not tuning or modifiying of cars. On its website under its Corporate Profile, it states: “Established for more than 10 years, Hanip Automobiles is an automotive workshop based in Singapore, providing affordable and quality automotive services ranging from general automotive maintenance & upkeep, accident repairs and motor insurance renewals & claims to specialized repairs such as engine and automatic transmission overhauls.”


Those familiar with the scene will know who the workshops and tuning houses in Singapore are. 


Many questioned the credibility of that article and ruffled the feathers of some, crying out the flaws that the article put forth.


Then, another article came out a few days ago.


TODAY, 23 August 2012 - A need for harsher penalties?

(read full article here)

  • “..number of summonses issued for illegal vehicle modifications rose by 41 per cent in the first six months of this year”
  • “..LTA is reviewing the penalty framework to determine whether there is a need to “enhance their deterrent effect”..”
  • Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh wrote to Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, asking for a consideration of the “prohibiting the sales of motor vehicle parts and accessories that may enable motorists to modify their motor vehicles to produce noise beyond prescribed or acceptable levels in Singapore.” 
  • He went on to say that “such vehicles were not only noisy but could also pose a danger to other road users if modified incorrectly” and that “the authorities should do more to control “potential troublemakers“.”
  • Mr Lui replied that “The National Environment Agency and the Traffic Police are cognisant of the noise problem associated with illegally modified vehicles and have stepped up joint enforcement actions” and “there are no plans to restrict the import and sales of after-market vehicle parts and accessories as there are legitimate uses, for instance, on off-road vehicles or for export to other countries.”

Other than the correspondence between Mr Lui and Mr Gan, a third party opinion was also published. 


Tham Chen Munn’s comments include:

  • “No matter how small the infringement, the same punishment should be meted out to curb irresponsible behaviour on roads here.”
  • “The car will be used beyond its normal operating intention and this endangers lives:
  • “.. conduct “raids” at car workshops to ensure that such illegal modifications do not take place”
  • “ clamp down on modification done across the Causeway, LTA should collaborate with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore to detect such infringements at the checkpoints.”


This has sparked a bigger wave and incurred more wrath, building on the discontent from the previous article by Channel NewsAsia. A Facebook page called Stop Criminalising Car Enthusiasts SG has even been started by enthusiasts to raise awareness about this issue.


Some have spoken up by writing articles and notes:


1) The Right Wrong: 24 August 2012, Editorial : Drivers are the problem, not the cars. 

2) Brendan Mok, editor of 9tro: A Call for Rational Argument – and positive change.

3) The Right Wrong: 19 July 2012, Editorial : How far is too far.


In response to all the anger and public outcry, Tham wrote in to TODAY in hope of clarification (read letter here):


(Photo Credit: Wayne Teo)


In addition, Tham also wrote to me with the subject “Major misunderstanding” and the following:

“I was merely asked for my opinion on illegal modifications and dangerous driving, and hence my response pertained to lighting infringements, and was based purely on my views on road safety and irresponsible drivers/workshops. There were no other assumptions made whatsoever and certainly nothing to imply that I was involved in or did a study and/or recommendations for LTA. Just pure and simple opinions from a fellow road user with safety for all on my mind. I also want to clarify that I am not against car enthusiasts or motorsports in general. I’m all for modifications that are safe and used by responsible drivers. In essence, we share the same sentiment – that drivers are the problem, and not the car, modified or not.

I also do not blame readers for reading the article out of context because of the overall content. But please be assured that the Study and LTA are one component, while my comments – based on lighting infringements and road safety – are entirely separate.


I hope this clarifies my honest-to-goodness intentions for the community. Never intended to ‘criminalize’ or harm the community in any way. It’s a mega misunderstanding that needs to be cleared and clarified so everyone is not stressed by this misconception. Thank you for your understanding and peace to the matter.”


Tham aside, will any of the letters from the public reach the relevant authorities? Where in the chain of command will it escalate to? What will LTA’s penalty framework eventually be?


Most importantly, beyond personal interests and passion in cars, how will this all impact the automotive industry in Singapore (that is already suffering from the COE system)?


Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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