Malaysia's new vehicle market expanded by over 200% to 63,878 units in March 2021 from 21,242 units in the same month of last year, according to registration data released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

The market last month rebounded from depressed year-earlier sales, which were severely affected by the first Movement Control Order (MCO) introduced by the government to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

March sales also benefited from the February lifting of the government's latest MCO introduced in response to a surge in infections towards the end of 2020.

In the first three months of 2021, the market was up by close to 33% at 139,499 units from 105,253 units in the same period of last year, with passenger vehicle sales rising by over 28% to 123,281 units while commercial vehicle sales jumped by over 72% to 16,218 units.

Proton reported separately its sales jumped to 14,989 units last month from 3,277 units last year while year-to-date sales were up by almost 51% at 32,826 units, helped by strong demand for the new Geely-based X50 compact SUV.

Roslan Abdullah, CEO of distributor Proton Edar, said he expected the total market to reach 630,000 units this year, up from 529,434 in 2020.

Perodua said sales increased by 184% to 24,433 units in March, helped by the launch of the Ativa SUV early that month, while first-quarter sales increased by almost 29% to 57,911 units.

Toyota and Lexus distributor UMW Toyota Motor said sales increased by 62% to over 17,000 units in the first quarter. The company began taking orders for the Corolla Cross model last month, with deliveries of locally assembled models set to begin in the fourth quarter.