After 2015’s year ending promo blitz that culminated in record TIV despite a soft economy, the first two months of 2016 saw the car industry suffer from a bad hangover. Many who were in the market for a car would have took advantage of the year-end sale, and many brands increased prices in 2016 citing the forex factor.

It was a slow start, but could the car market be flickering back to life? 48,800 vehicles were sold in March, an increase of 10,924 units or 29% compared to February. Passenger vehicles accounted for 43,247 units (up 9,121 units) from the total. The Malaysian Automotive Association attributed the spike to a longer working month and car companies rushing to deliver vehicles before their financial year ending March 31.

Year-on-year sales volume is down 28%, or 18,587 units lower than in March 2015. Similarly, March 2016 year-to-date (YTD) sales is 22%, or 37,112 units lower than Jan-March 2015. However, this is due to the high volume from last year where consumers rushed to purchase before the implementation of GST.

As you can see from the chart above, most major players saw gains in March from a dismal February, everyone except for Proton and Hyundai. Perodua tops the league by a big margin over Honda, which is now the number one non-national brand. Honda occupies Proton’s traditional second place in March, but the local brand is just ahead of Honda YTD – 19,225 vs 18,777. Should this trend continue, Proton won’t hold on to its runner-up spot for very long.

Surprisingly, Nissan is not just fourth in March over Toyota, its YTD position is also fourth, ahead of the big T – 10,773 vs 10,216. UMW Toyota Motor has a few big guns waiting in the wings though, and the IMV trio of Hilux, Fortuner and Innova should boost sales significantly. Interesting to watch.

In the premium race, Mercedes-Benz is continuing its strong form and is leading German archrival BMW 2,677 to 1,813 YTD. Both have sold more cars in Q1 than mass market players Volkswagen (1,604) and Hyundai (1,569). Kia (897) and Peugeot (397) are among the big brands that did not breach 1,000 units.