2007 started off on a low note as sales continued to head downwards, a? trend which had started the year before. In spite of substantial discounting to clear stocks, sales remained weak and until June, they were below the 2006 numbers each month. In fact, the slide was severe enough that by the middle of the year, the total industry volume (TIV) was 12% lower than the same period for 2006? and 2006 had been a bad year! But June was also the month that things started to brighten and the remaining six months till the end of 2007 saw monthly sales running higher than the same months in 2006 but not enough to beat the 2006 TIV. The full year?s TIV ended at 487,176 units – 3,592 units short or 0.7% down from 2006.

The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA), which has been compiling industry data since the 1960s, attributed the change in the trend to acceptance of resale values by consumers who had been expecting ?something? to improve the values which had fallen significantly after the government had lowered import duties in March 2006 to meet its obligations as an AFTA participant. Also, used car values had stabilized and in fact, there were signs that used car dealers were offering better prices for some models which were in short supply in used car lots. Government servants, the largest segment of consumers, also had more disposable income with pay increases and many took the opportunity to change their cars ? especially when the Proton Persona was introduced. Banks also eased their strict procedures on loan approvals and that too helped sales increase.

Perodua was again the most popular brand in 2007, with the Myvi being the best-seller

Predictably, Perodua was the best-selling brand with a 33.3% market share from 162,152 units sold. Proton, which saw its worst year in 2007, was rescued by the Persona which was very well received and from 23.6% share in 2006, at least it closed 2007 with 24.2%. Toyota was third overall, as usual, with 81,993 units sold and a very marginal (0.1%) increase of market share to 16.8%. Besides Perodua, Proton and Toyota, Honda was the only other make which saw a meaningful increase in market share; virtually all others either managed to maintain their share or had lower shares.

Persona stopped Proton’s downward slide during the second half of the year

Toyota Hilux, a pickup, was among the Top Ten best-sellers

No surprises too that the Perodua Myvi was the best-selling model in the nation again, selling at an average rate of 7,059 units a month although the Viva, with sales having started only in May, was able to grab second position after just 8 months of sales. Though criticized by some quarters as being over-priced, it still sold at an average of 5,777 units a month, better than the Iswara which had for many years been the nation?s most popular car. 2007 would be the final year that we would see that first Proton model on the charts as well as the Wira, which was retired after the Persona came out.

As for the Persona, even though its total sales volume did not beat the Iswara, its monthly volumes were actually higher and it took sixth overall position, a commendable achievement for a newcomer. In 2008, of course, much is expected from the new Saga…

Two Toyotas were among the top five best-sellers, the Avanza and the Vios, a testimony to the power of the Toyota brand more than anything else. Another Toyota model, the Hilux, also achieved a creditable ranking of tenth overall and it?s a pick-up!

By bodystyles, some interesting statistics appear. For instance, while it is often said that the Malaysian market is a ?sedan market?, the 2007 figures show that hatchbacks accounted for 53.8% of sales whereas sedans were 25.7%. This is largely due to the fact that the Proton Iswara, which once dominated the market, had seen a decline in popularity in the past few years as people got tired of it (plus the quality issues of Proton discouraged many people from buying a Proton). As such, Perodua?s models ? all hatchbacks ? were chosen as an alternative. However, this could well change in 2008 if both the Persona and new Saga sell in the big numbers expected. If Proton can get enough units out, both could match the Myvi and Viva numbers each month.

The decline in popularity of the Iswara sedan is also evident in that it was also no longer the favourite sedan of Malaysians. While the model is ranked third overall, when you take away the Iswara Aeroback (which is a hatchback), the number of sedans sold was actually 4,567 units. It did not even figure in the top three sedans and it will surprise many to see that the Toyota Vios was the best-selling sedan last year although the Persona or New Saga should be able to beat it this year.

Nissan Vanette remains the most popular window van even after more than 10 years

Contrary to what might be expected, the sub-1000 cc engine size is not the largest segment (yet) and the most popular remains the 1300 cc model which accounted for about a third of sales last year. If fuel prices rise significantly, there may be a shift but more likely, it will be from larger engine sizes to the 1600 cc and smaller engine range.

Looking ahead, the MAA is making forecasting growth in TIV of 4.7% overall to 510,00 units this year, with passenger vehicles growing by 4.5% to 463,000 units and commercial vehicles growing by 6.1% to 47,000 units. There is optimism that infrastructure development in the three economic zones will see more vehicles being purchased for projects. By the end of 2012, the MAA forecasts that the TIV will be 580,000 units a year but with the way the government acts with regard to policies relating to the auto industry, it is hard to predict the market situation. What many in the industry hope is that a healthy Proton will require less ?intervention? by the government to limit competition that can hurt the national carmaker.

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Data excludes commercial vehicles such as buses, lorries, panel vans, etc

Data excludes commercial vehicles such as buses, lorries, panel vans, etc

Mercedes data does not include Mercedes commercial vehicles

Sales of Proton models for each quarter of 2007

Data excludes commercial vehicles such as buses, lorries, panel vans, etc

All data for this article comes from the monthly reports produced by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). The reports are available for purchase by members of the public.

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