Some might have expected Toyota’s image and sales to suffer across the globe after the world’s top automaker was hit by a wave of recalls, with those in the US particularly sticky and still ongoing. We could see repercussions in the longer term of course, but March and year-to-date sales in America saw upward figures thanks to aggressive incentives to counter the bad press. Back home, although Toyota buyers in Malaysia don’t get sweeteners like zero per cent financing, sales are up nevertheless.

UMW Toyota Motor (UMWT) has revealed figures for the first quarter of 2010, and the 21,017 units sold represent a 22% jump from the same period last year. This has led to internal confidence that this year’s target will be met. “With this positive momentum, I am confident in achieving our target of 88,000 units or 16% market share,” UMWT president Kuah Kock Heng said.

Last year, UMWT sold more than 82,000 units with a market share of 15.4%, and sat at the top of the non-national vehicles segment, a position it has not conceded for 20 years.

Kuah was in Sarawak, and he chose to focus on Toyota’s growth there. Malaysia’s largest state contributed 10% of UMWT’s 2009 sales, and it’s no surprise that the Hilux pick-up truck is the most popular model in the range; four out of 10 Toyotas sold in Sarawak is a Hilux. “For the first quarter of this year, we have delivered 968 units on Sarawak roads, this is a 35% increase compared to 715 units in the same period last year,” Kuah added. Up north in Sabah, the Hilux has a 48.8% monopoly of the pick-up segment.

You’ve got to hand it to Toyota for the Hilux’s success. Here’s a truck that’s outspecced and outpowered by its rivals (the latter by a big margin) and still outsells them easily without a fight. I really don’t envy the marketing people at Isuzu, Ford and Mitsubishi – they must be at wit’s end thinking of a strategy to beat the Big T.