THE indications were already there since the Malaysian Automotive Association sales data for November were released last year.
Then, the total industry volume (TIV) already stood at 521,907 units, up by 1.3 per cent from 2016’s 515,252 units.
Interestingly, four of the five top-selling brands registered increased sales.
The biggest sellers, Honda and Toyota, registered growth of 15.6 per cent and 9.1 per cent, respectively.
Perodua, despite registering just 0.9 per cent growth, still saw sales jump by 16,636 units.
Proton was the only one of the five to register a sales decrease. But the proliferation of Uber and Grab perhaps had more to do with this than anything else.
Proton still saw retail sales increasing 2.5 per cent to 68,184 units last year from 66,513 units in 2016.
There was growth from the central, south, east coast regions and East Malaysia, recording between one to 10 per cent growth in units of cars sold.
The overall number was actually affected by poorer fleet sales, with 2,807 units sold last year due to lower taxi orders.
This week, a few of the carmakers started making their full-year sales announcements, and the results were positive.
On Tuesday, Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd announced that it had achieved record-breaking increase in sales of 19 per cent last year with sales of 109,511 units.
This made it the highest in the history of Honda Malaysia since it was established in 2003.
It was also the first time that Honda Malaysia achieved sales of more than 100,000 units.
On Wednesday, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia announced that it had achieved another milestone by selling 12,045 of passenger cars last year, a 2.3 per cent increase compared to the 11,779 units sold the year before.
Are the good sales figures an indicator of even better things to come thisyear?
Well, Hong Leong Investment Bank’s (HLIB) 2018 outlook for the auto industry predicts marginal growth.
TIV is expected to grow two per cent year-on-year, driven by stronger sales from passenger cars as consumer sentiment retains its uptrend and impact from banks’ tighter guidelines which normalised last year, said its analysis.
HLIB predicts Perodua will maintain its leading market position, while Honda leads the non-national market segment.
An interesting aside is that the analysis predicts the End of Life Vehicle policy may be implemented as early as the second quarter of this year, which is expected to encourage new car sales, and will benefit especially Perodua and Proton.
With the improved position of the ringgit, the automotive industry may benefit.
However, the rise in material prices, such as aluminium and steel, may partially offset the benefits from the ringgit’s appreciation, the report said.