New vehicle sales in Malaysia surged by over 49% in April to 50,279 units, from 33,679 units a year earlier, according to data released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

Of these, 45,723 were passenger cars and 4,556 were commercial vehicles.

The MAA remains upbeat about the market’s short term prospects and reiterated its full-year market forecast of 510,000 units for 2008, citing high consumer confidence and strong first-half sales.

But the association warned that external factors such as high oil prices and inflation could dampen demand in the second half. Rising fuel prices are also likely to boost popularity of smaller cars.

In the first four months of the year, vehicle sales reached 181,053 units – 30.6% higher than the 138,629 units sold a year earlier. The sharp increase in volumes was helped by strong demand for Proton’s new Persona model, launched last August, and January’s launch of the Saga replacement – for which demand far outstrips supply.

So far, the company has received 55,000 orders for the new Saga and 41,000 for the Persona since its launch.

Tony Pugliese