New vehicle sales in Malaysia rose by 9% to 68,665 units in May 2024 from 63,158 units in the same month of last year, according to the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

The new vehicle market continued to expand this year despite the central bank hiking its interest rate in the last two years from 1.75% to 3.0%. GDP growth accelerated to 4.2% year on year in the first quarter of 2024 compared with 3% in the previous quarter, driven by a strong rebound in exports and a moderate improvement in domestic consumption.

After two years of record sales following the pandemic shutdowns, the vehicle market was still widely expected to slow this year.

In the first five months of 2024, new vehicle sales increased 8% to 328,901 units from 303,575 in the same period of last year, driven by an 11% rise in passenger vehicle sales to 301,109 units.

Commercial vehicle volume fell 15% to 27,792 units, however, with sales affected by uncertainty ahead of the government decision to withdraw diesel subsidies earlier this month, resulting in a 50% jump in diesel prices.

Vehicle production was up 12% at 267,326 units in this period.

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Proton global sales were slightly lower at 62,697 units in the first five months of 2024, including 1,344 exports. The Saga remained by far the best selling model with deliveries up 8% to 29,397 units followed by the Geely based S70 sedan with 9,474 units, the Geely-based X50 compact SUV 8,493 units and the Persona sedan 8,444 units. The automaker said it expected sales of the X50 to strengthen after it launched upgraded versions earlier this month.

UMW Toyota Motor reported a 2% decline in combined Toyota and Lexus sales to 39,211 units year to date (YTD). The company launched the new 2024 Lexus LM in May which helped improve the brand performance last month.

Earlier this year, the MAA forecast vehicle registrations to fall 7% to 740,000 units in 2024, including 59,200 hybrids and 14,800 battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Local financial services firm RHB Research was more downbeat, forecasting the market to decline 22% to 625,000 units, pointing to lower order backlogs at key brands such as Perodua and Toyota.