March car sales hit 2-year high, says research house

Proton sales were driven by strong demand for its X70 SUV.

PETALING JAYA: Car sales in March were the highest in 27 months, Ambank Research said today.

The research house said car sales for the month of March increased 37% month on month and 10% year on year (yoy) to 54,800 units.

According to the research house, local car-makers such as Perodua (up 12% yoy) and Proton (up 46% yoy) benefitted from the launch of the Aruz and X70 respectively.

Ambank Research said total industry volume sales were lifted by a rebound in all major marques due to the shorter working month of February.

Perodua chalked up a new high in sales of 23,300 units, backed by the spectacular sales of 18,900 passenger vehicles, which accounted for 81% of its total sales.

Ambank Research expects the demand for Myvi to continue in the future.

“The Aruz did not perform up to the group’s expectations, selling only 1,500 units for March compared with its targeted average sales of 2,500 units.

“On the brighter side, Perodua is likely to register better numbers ahead as it only delivered 4,200 units of the reported bookings of over 14,000 units since the launch of the seven-seater MPV,” said the statement.

Proton, Ambank Research said, sold a total of 6,100 units in March, with 3,000 units or 49% comprising the still popular X70.

However, the research house believes that sales of the SUV will taper off soon and Proton will have to rely more on its recently-relaunched passenger vehicles such as the Iriz and Persona to sustain its strong sales momentum built earlier.

Toyota’s new Yaris to face off with Honda Jazz

“Toyota continues to shine, picking up in sales volume, with an increase of 14% yoy, with 5.900 units sold.

“This was backed by a spike of 49% month on month in passenger car sales, largely due to the strong demand for the new Vios,” said Ambank Research.

The sales of the Hilux continue to improve, at a decent 1,100 units, contributing to 18% of Toyota’s total sales volume.

The top three best-selling models were the Vios, Hilux and Rush in the first quarter of the year.

However, the research house also noted that Toyota’s market share took a dip to 23% in March from 27% in February.

With that, it believes that the volume increment needs to be much stronger in order to win back some of the market share lost to Honda.

In the foreseeable future, Toyota will be focusing heavily on volume-based models such as the Vios and Yaris to achieve its ambitious sales volume growth of 14% for 2019.

Ambank Research also said it will be interesting to see how the recently-launched all-new Yaris will fare against Honda’s Jazz in the fight for market share in the entry level hatchback segment.

Ambank Research has retained its conservative sales growth projection of 8% for Toyota as the general market outlook is still not as vibrant as what UMW is expecting.

Nissan’s MPV sees highest sales

March was the best month for Nissan so far. Nissan’ sales improved to a whopping growth of 85% month on month, or 2% yoy.

This was backed by a jump of 129% and 99% in passenger vehicles and MPV sales respectively.

Tan Chong Motor said there will be new launches this year on top of the recent introduction of the new X-Trail facelift, which the research house believes will help the group capture a higher sales volume this year.

Ambank Research has maintained its conservative sales growth for the group at 5% for this financial year, premised on the continuing sales strength of the Serena S-Hybrid MPV.

Key models ripe for upgrades include the Almera, Teana, Grand Livina and Navara.

The approval rate for loans for passenger cars stood at 63.6% in February, an increase of 5.4% from January and higher than the average rate of 59.6% in 2018.

The research house maintained its total industry volume projection of 603,000 units for 2019 (+0.8% yoy).

The sector is lagging with no major catalysts after receiving a boon from the tax holiday in 2018.

Growth in 2019 total industry volume will very much depend on the performance of volume-oriented players, namely Perodua, Honda, Toyota and Nissan.