Last year was quite an eventful one for Perodua. The Malaysian market leader (top for 11 consecutive years now) launched its first ever sedan – the Bezza – but saw fellow national carmaker Proton roll out four new models in the Perdana, Persona, Saga and Ertiga. Despite that, the Rawang-based carmaker still ended 2016 with an all-time high market share of 35.7%, up from around 32% in 2015.

“Despite 2016 being a challenging year, we are pleased to announce that all our models – from the Bezza to the Alza – are number one in their respective categories. Despite being launched in July, we’re happy to announce that the Bezza sold over 36,000 units in 2016, making it the number one sedan in the A-segment,” said Perodua president and CEO Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh.

Perodua is no stranger to defying odds, but even the company isn’t anticipating a rosy year ahead, for both the economy and consumer sentiment, as well as auto sales. Aminar expects this year to be as tough as 2016 or worse, with intensifying competition. “Everyone wants a piece of the pie,” he said.

Perodua’s sales target for this year reflects this – at 202,000 units, it’s 5,000 units or 2% less than the 2016 total. On a projected 2017 total industry volume of 590k, that would be around 34% market share. Lower than 2016’s, but last year’s record gain was an unexpected one as rivals’ share of the pie shrunk in a competitive market. Production volume for this year will also be lower to match the reduced sales target – 197,000 vs 213,000 units for 2016.

The Axia facelift – now in showrooms – and the Bezza will make up the bulk of Perodua’s 2017 sales

Another issue, not just for Perodua but all car manufacturers and importers, is the decline of the ringgit against major trading currencies. At around 4.45 against the US dollar, the ringgit has weakened considerably since late 2015, when Perodua first hinted at a price increase and the RM was at 4.2 against the greenback.

“For the time being, we’ll continue to monitor (the forex effect) and we’ll continue to absorb (the higher cost). We will hold prices for as long as we can, hoping that it will weaken (USD vs RM) in the later part of the year,” Aminar said, adding that while Perodua’s localisation rate is high (previously revealed to be over 90% for all its models), it does import “precision” parts such as ECUs, electronics and metallic paints, and that most trading is conducted in USD.

That’s for existing models. The Axia facelift – which is in showrooms today and will be officially launched this Friday – has seen prices climb by up to RM2,773, but the refreshed hatch does come with an improved engine and fuel consumption, plus new features across the board to compensate. Click here for full details, pricing and live galleries of the 2017 Perodua Axia facelift.

GALLERY: Perodua Axia 1.0 Advance facelift
GALLERY: Perodua Axia 1.0 Standard G facelift with GearUp bodykit