Malaysian auto sales isn’t out of the woods yet, despite a predicted slight rebound in total industry volume (TIV) by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) and the continued climb of on-form Honda. Market leader Perodua admits as much, despite having sold 64,700 vehicles in the first four months of the year, a 4.1% year-on-year gain.

In a press conference at the carmaker’s Moh Ke Ganu media drive, Perodua president and CEO Datuk Aminar Rashid Salleh attributed the Q1 surge to carmakers clearing carryover 2016 stock. “Whether this is a true reflection of industry strength is uncertain,” he said.

There are “glimpses of hope”, he said, citing encouraging economic data and reports by market watchers, but “we also need to be cautious as the market continues to be challenging.” Perodua is therefore maintaining its 2017 sales target of 202,000 units, the P2 boss announced.

Perodua Sales MD Datuk Dr Zahari Husin shared that hire purchase approvals continue to be a challenge for the carmaker, which sells entry level models. The P2 sales chief says that the HP approval rate situation is “tougher than last year”, a sign that there’s no relaxation in the more stringent criteria applied by banks. This has been a longstanding challenge for Perodua, and is a result of its low and middle income target market.

Zahari said that the HP approval rate, which used to be over 60% for the brand, is now below the 50% mark. Taking this into account, the fact that P2 has not just maintained sales but improved on last year’s figures is very impressive.

One might remember Honda proclaiming that its BR-V – which has been an instant sales success in a new segment for the brand – is now the best selling MPV in Malaysia, outselling local models such as the Perodua Alza and Proton’s Exora and Ertiga. Perodua concedes that the BR-V did indeed outsell its Alza in one particular month (by a margin of seven units), but all its models – Axia, Bezza, Myvi and Alza – lead their respective segments year-to-date.

Aminar said that Perodua is working on new products in accordance with product life cycles (the Myvi and Alza have been described as “ageing” products despite sales figures that are still strong), but in typical Perodua fashion, declined to elaborate on the replacement models or their timeline.