Vehicle sales in Malaysia rose by 20.2% year-on-year in July to 53,984 units, from 44,926 units in July 2007, according to data released by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). The market continues to be driven by strong sales of new models from the national car companies Proton and Perodua, particularly for the Proton Saga and Persona models for which there are lengthy waiting lists.

Passenger car sales rose by 19% to 48,801 units during the month, compared with 41,015 units a year earlier. Commercial vehicle sales were particularly strong, with volumes jumping by 32.5% to 5,183 units. In the passenger car segment, demand was particularly brisk for small-engined models, reflecting the sharp hike in fuel prices in June.

In the January-July period, vehicle sales were up by just under 25% to 331,957 units from 265,665 a year earlier, with passenger car sales amounting to 303,053 units and commercial vehicles 28,904 units.

At the end of July the MAA said it expects vehicle sales to drop by 16.5% in the second half of 2008 to around 232,000 units, as high oil prices, accelerating inflation and the rising cost of vehicle financing combine to put pressure on buyers. The association's full-year forecast is for 510,000 vehicle sales, while some manufacturers are slightly more upbeat. Honda expects the market to reach 520,000 units this year, for example.

Total vehicle production was up by 28.3% to 51,531 units in July, including 46,676 passenger cars and 4,855 commercial vehicles. Total production in the first seven months of the year rose by 26.9% to 314,753 vehicles, compared with 247,975 units a year earlier, with output of passenger cars amounting to 287,248 units and 27,505 commercial vehicles.

Tony Pugliese