Malaysia's new vehicle market jumped by over 41% to 60,780 units in May from 42,983 units in the same month of last year, according to registration data released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA ).

Vehicle sales last month were strong ahead of the annual Hari Raya holidays and came against weak volumes a year earlier. The sales rise comes against a backdrop of slowing economic growth in the country in the first quarter of the year, to 4.3% year-on-year from 4.7% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and an average of 4.75% in the whole of 2018.

Most sectors of the economy experienced weaker growth, including private consumption which grew by 7.6% compared with 8.4% in the previous quarter.

The vehicle market in the first five months of the year was 12.7% higher at 253,808 units compared with 225,134 units in the same period last year.

Helping to drive up demand was strong demand for new SUVs launched at the end of last year by the two main national car companies Proton and Perodua. Proton reported 10,611 sales in May, or 17.5% of total vehicle sales, including 2,439 units of its new X70 SUV.

The association has raised its full-year 2019 forecast to 600,000 units in view of the recent market strength.