Malaysia’s new vehicle market plunged by almost 59% to 22,478 units in March 2020 from 54,776 units in the same month of last year, according to registration data released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

Consumer and business confidence in the country began to weaken significantly in February when the seriousness of the COVID-19 coronavirus threat to the world became more evident.

But vehicle sales only began to decline significantly last month, with the market shutting down completely after the Malaysian government issued its first movement control order (MCO) on 18 March.

The current MCO is due to expire on 12 May.

Until then, all personal interstate and international travel is prohibited, schools and non-essential businesses are ordered to remain closed and people are only allowed to leave their homes to buy food and for essential reasons such as healthcare. 

While vehicle manufacturers have been forced to halt operations in compliance with the central government’s MCO regulations, the government this week agreed to begin relaxing restrictions on manufacturing at the end of April.

Domestic demand was expected to be limited for some time, however, particularly for durable goods.

Vehicle sales in the first quarter of 2020 fell by over 26% to 105,553 units from 143,046 units in the same period of 2019 with passenger vehicle sales falling by almost 27% to 96,115 units while commercial vehicle sales were down by more than 21% at 9,418 units. 

Perodua continued to lead the market in the first three months of the year, albeit with sales falling by 25.9% to 44,977 units, followed by Proton with 21,757 units (+19%), Honda 11,100 units (-50%), Toyota 10,415 units (-24.1%), Nissan 2,747 units (-46.8%) and Mazda 2,723 units (-17.8%).

The MAA said it expected zero vehicle sales in April due to all dealers not being allowed to operate since 18 March.