New vehicle sales in Malaysia fell sharply March, by 27.6% to 48,800 units from 67,387 units in the same month of last year, according to the monthly automotive industry report released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

Sales last year were close to record levels, as buyers brought forward sales ahead of the introduction of the new goods and services tax (GST) in April 2015.

Last month's market weakness was also attributed to slowing economic growth, which has affected consumer confidence – particularly when it comes to buying 'big ticket' items such as cars. 

Sales of passenger vehicles fell by 27.1% to 43,247 units last month, while commercial vehicle sales fell by 30.6% to 5,553 units.

Vehicle production fell by over 20% to 47,810 units in March, including 45,802 passenger vehicles and 2,008 commercial vehicles.

Cumulative first quarter vehicle sales were just over 22% lower at 131,267 units, compared with 168,306 units in the same period of last year. 

In a separate release to the press, Daihatsu's local partner Perodua – the country's largest vehicle manufacturer – said its sales fell by over 22% year-on-year to 17,300 units in March and by over 17% to 47,200 units in the first quarter.