GRIDLOCK. You’re stuck in KL’s notorious traffic.
There’s a brand spanking new Porsche Cayenne to your right, a gleaming Mercedes S-class in front, and the grille of an X5 looming in your rear view mirror.
If the thought ever flickered through your mind about why there are so many luxury cars on Malaysian roads, no – you’re not just imagining it.
While Malaysians lament about the expensive cost of living and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), this fact doesn’t seem to be reflected on choked Malaysian roads.
Last year, the sale of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguars went up by a whopping 31.2 percent, 54.7 percent, 62.5 percent, and 150 percent, compared to pre-GST year of 2014.
BMW and Audi, while posting a slight decline of 3.8 percent and 1.7 percent, still sold 7,515 and 1,592 units, respectively.
Moreover, a simple glance out the window during commute to work will make anyone notice the sudden surge in luxury cars on Malaysian roads.
For every 10 cars, there’s bound to be at least one Toyota Vellfire weaving among the Perodua MyVis and Proton Sagas.
Some of the once exotic - Ferraris, Maseratis, Bentleys and even Rolls Royces aren’t that rare or uncommon these days in Malaysia, especially in urban centres.
These numbers and observations, while underlining the fact that it is not all doom and gloom in regards to the Malaysian economy as it was once perpetuated, also highlights the obvious, income and wealth inequality in Malaysia.
While affluent Malaysians seem to be unaffected in their buying habits, the same can’t be said for those on the other side of the spectrum.
Last year, the weak ringgit and implementation of the GST definitely slowed down discretionary spending by the average Malaysian, judging by car sales figures.
The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research’s consumer sentiment index, meanwhile dipped to an all-time low, at 63.8 during the 4th quarter of 2015, and only further affirms the fact.
Automotive makers such as Proton, Toyota, Ford, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen, among others, saw sharp declines in sales in 2015 while Perodua, Nissan posted only marginal increases at 9.1 per cent and 1.9 per cent.
Which seems to suggest that while the rich in Malaysia have more money to spend, the poor are getting poorer.
However, this is at odds with Department of Statistics of Malaysia’s issued Gini Coefficient, a measure of inequality, which shows a steady decline of inequality in Malaysia, completely contradicting the observations and anecdotal evidence.
Perhaps it is also worth noting that Malaysia’s household debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was at 87.9 per cent last year, among Asia’s highest, and is expected to climb up this year.
The way things are going, it won’t be a stretch to expect the US$2.6 million (RM10 million), 1500-hp, 420 km/h max Bugatti Chiron racing past Protons on the PLUS Highway, anytime soon.
Though however unequal the wealth, price of the cars, horsepower road-tax and insurance payments are, all Malaysian are sure to be stuck in traffic together, given the sheer volume of vehicles on the road.