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Malaysia auto sales hit record in 2010

Sales of new vehicles in Malaysia hit a record high in 2010 but growth is tipped to slow this year in Southeast Asia's biggest passenger car market, an industry group said Wednesday.

The country saw motor vehicle sales grow 12.7 percent to 605,156 units last year thanks to a robust economy and consumer confidence, surpassing the 570,000 units forecast by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).

"The 2010 total industry volume had overtaken the previous record of 552,316 units achieved in 2005," MAA president Aishah Ahmad told a news conference.

Sales of passenger vehicles grew 11.8 percent to 543,594 units while commercial vehicles grew 21.8 percent to 61,562.

Malaysian carmaker Perodua kept its top spot with a 31.2 percent market share, followed by another local carmaker Proton with 26 percent and Japanese firm Toyota with 15.1 percent.

Aishah said the record performance in 2010 was due to strong domestic economic growth, increased consumer spending and a slew of economic reforms rolled out by the government to spur development.

The MAA projected sales growth to continue in 2011 at a slower pace - rising 2.1 percent to 618,000 - due to moderating economic expansion.

"The biggest challenge would be whether the economy is still maintained as it is, and externally whether the world economic growth will be threatened, as well as whether the interest rate will remain the same," Aishah said.

Malaysia's central bank has said the country was on track to grow six percent in 2010, despite growth slowing to 5.3 percent in the third quarter as exports slipped. Malaysia's economy sank 1.7 percent in 2009.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has unveiled a series of economic reforms since 2009 aimed at creating 3.3 million jobs and propelling the country of 28 million people towards developed-nation status by 2020.