Let’s just say that 2020 hasn’t kicked off the way any of us wanted, to put it mildly. The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), a minor but ominous disturbance at the start of the year, has become a full-blown pandemic. Not only have millions around the world been infected and hundreds of thousands sadly died, but the outbreak has also brought public life as we know it to a shuddering halt.

Malaysia is no different, the government having issued a movement control order in March that continues to this day. With the entire country asked to stay home, non-essential businesses have been shuttered (and for good reason), and that includes vehicle showrooms. The lack of sales has impacted car companies badly, and with the first quarter in the books, we’re taking a look at just how severe the damage has been.

Compared to the same period last year, the total industry volume (TIV) has fallen 25.61% to 106,428 units, down from 143,064. The outlook is so dim that the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) has made a downwards revision to its 2020 sales target, from 607,000 units to just 400,000. If the industry does sell so few cars, it would be the first time in 13 years that the TIV fails to crest the 500,000 mark.

As to be expected, the vast majority of car companies registered lower sales versus the first quarter of 2019, including market leader Perodua. The national carmaker saw it sales shrink 25.85% to 44,977 units, down from 60,659. Impressively, the company has more or less retained its hold on the buying public during this troubling time, its market share dropping just a tenth of a percentage point to 42.3%.

One company that achieved a rare upswing was Proton. Sales of its cars shot up nearly 20% from 18,281 units to 21,757, while its market share rose from 12.8% to 20.4% – now more than Honda and Toyota combined. It will be very difficult for the company to sustain this growth the way it did last year, however.

Honda continued to hang on to third, despite selling just 1,759 vehicles in February. The Japanese carmaker rebounded (relative to the rest of the soft market) last month with the launch of the new Accord and facelifted Civic, overhauling not only Toyota but also Proton with 3,281 units sold. Even so, its first-quarter sales of 11,190 units was only half what it was in 2019, while its market share fell from 15.5% to 10.4%.

Further down the standings, Toyota posted a 24.1% decline to 10,415 units sold, although its market share rose marginally to 9.8%. And despite dropping to 11th place in the standings last month, Nissan retained its customary fifth place in the first quarter with 2,747 units, even though overall sales fell 46.83% vis-à-vis last year. This meant the company barely led Mazda, which saw sales drop 17.76% to 2,723 units.

Hot on their heels was Mitsubishi – while sales fell 22.35% to 1,765 units, its market share expanded slightly to 1.7%, and it leapfrogged both BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Elsewhere, it was mixed fortunes for the Korean twins – while Hyundai was one of the few who saw a mild increase to 604 units, Kia sales cratered, plummeting a massive 74.89% to 333 units.

It wasn’t easy keeping tabs on the premium segment, as both BMW and Mercedes-Benz decided to report their sales figures only on a quarterly basis. Their obfuscating methods meant that only now are we seeing the true picture of how these brands fared, and surprise, surprise – this time, Munich beat Stuttgart with 1,600 versus 1,342 units sold. These figures are 37.62% and 55.53% down on their 2019 figures respectively.

With Audi still absent from the standings, it was Volvo that came next, sales falling 14.65% to 367 units. Lexus brought some good news by selling 17.48% more cars at 168 units, but it was Porsche that wowed us – the sports car maker somehow managed a 61.90% increase in this climate, with 68 units sold.