The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) released sales and production figures for 2019 yesterday, and we have here the final sales table for last year, showing us which brands gained and which marques lost in 2019.

Malaysia’s total industry volume (TIV) for 2019 was 604,287 units, which is an increase of 5,689 units, or about 1%, over the 598,598 units recorded in 2018. Passenger vehicles led the way with a jump of 17,080 units, or 3.2%, to 550,179 units in 2019. Commercial vehicle sales dipped 11,391 units, or 17.4%, to 54,108 units. With that, passenger vehicles now account for 91% of TIV, up from 89.1% in 2018.

By the way, this is the first time since 2015 (666,677 units) that TIV has breached the 600k mark. MAA is predicting a challenging year ahead with a flattish 2020 TIV forecast of 607,000 units, up 0.5%. Anyway, let’s have a closer look at 2019 sales according to brands.

Leading the way is of course Perodua, which has been Malaysia’s market leader since 2006, when it overtook Proton for the first time and never looked back. The seemingly unstoppable force from Rawang set another annual sales record in 2019, shifting 240,341 cars, which is a 5.8% jump over the 227,243 units 2018, itself a record then. P2’s market share is now almost 40%.

Over to the new number two, Proton. The revitalised national brand jumped to the runners up spot from fourth in 2018, the only change in the top 10 standings. It was the biggest mover of last year too with 100,183 units sold – that’s an additional 35.439 units over 2018’s total, or a massive 54.7% jump. That’s from a full year of X70 sales and the revamped PIES (Persona, Iriz, Exora, Saga) range. This year, the CKD X70 and much-anticipated “X50” will debut, and the 2020 sales target is a whopping 32% higher.

P2’s growing dominance would suggest that Proton’s recent rise isn’t affecting its business. Indeed, Honda, the occupier of the No.2 spot for the past few years recorded the biggest drop in terms of volume – the Japanese carmaker chalked up 85,418 units in 2019, which is 16,864 units lower than in 2018. In percentage terms, it’s a 16.5% drop. Looks like the delay of launches caused by approval issues is starting to take its toll on the brand.

Despite that, Honda still managed to end the year as the non-national leader ahead of Toyota, which managed 69,091 units. That’s a 5.4% year-on-year increase. By the way, Perodua’s relentless march and Proton’s comeback means that the combined market share for national brands is now at 56.4%, up from 48.8% in 2018.

Away from the big four, it’s mostly red with double digit declines, but the biggest percentage drops come from Kia (-39.3%) and Subaru (-44.7%). In fact, of the mainstream brands, only Perodua, Proton, Toyota and Renault are up – the latter’s registrations boosted by its new car subscription programme.

Moving on to the premium brands mini league. With 10,535 units, Mercedes-Benz stayed ahead of rival BMW (9,300 units, excluding MINI’s 1,142 units), but both German makes saw volume drop 21.7% and 22.6% respectively. Bucking the trend is Volvo, which saw sales grow by 36.1% to 1,883 units. Still a long way from the top two, but the Geely-owned Swedish brand has momentum to build on now.

It’s going to be a big, but also very challenging year ahead for the Malaysian auto industry. There will be mega launches from the national brands that will shake up the industry, but the others might find it tough. If you consider MAA’s flattish 2020 TIV forecast, Perodua’s steady 2020 target and Proton’s aggressive 32% higher target for this year; something has got to give, and the impact will likely be on the smaller brands.

Also, there’s some regulation uncertainty in the horizon – a car price increase was avoided at the very last turn, but the special exemption from the government will end at the end of the year. Car companies, especially those with CKD operations, will have to wrap their heads around this new form of open market value (OMV) calculation, which directly impacts applicable excise duty, and subsequently final car prices. Seatbelts on, let’s go.