Malaysian car market steadiest in the region

KUALA LUMPUR - Buyers in some of Southeast Asia's key auto markets deferred new car purchases in 2015 in the face of widespread currency depreciation and mounting household debt.

Vehicle sales in Malaysia fared better than most with flat demand still absorbing 666,674 units, a mere 0.03 per cent up from 2014, according to figures released on Thursday.

The introduction of a 6 per cent goods and services tax in April and the weak ringgit nevertheless dented consumer confidence in a country where many have to buy cars for work because of poor public transport.

Malaysian carmakers, fearful of driving customers away, have also held off raising prices despite the ringgit's 23 per cent plunge against the US dollar last year. Prices started creeping up again in January, however, following the clearance of old stock.

"It's inevitable," said Aishah Ahmad of the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). "It's either market share or profits."

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