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This year over 20 new car models expected to hit the road [03-01-2011]  
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The new year will see a slew of new vehicle launches as car companies hope to capitalise on the improved economic outlook, customer sentiment and battle for market share.

Based on market talk and speculation, over 20 new models (see table below) are expected to “hit the tarmac” in 2011.

“The number of new models that are expected to be launched this year is an indication that car companies are optimistic about the economic environment,” said one analyst when asked about the number of new models that are in the pipeline for 2011.

“Other than being buoyed by the improved economic outlook, car companies also need to refresh their inventories and keep offering new models to keep attracting new customers or risk losing out to the competition and ultimately, market share,” he added.

A Proton Exora electric car. Many industry observers expect a boost in hybrid vehicles this year.

Many car companies, when contacted, were however not prepared to reveal their latest launches for the year.

One industry observer said many players, especially foreign car manufacturers, still needed the approval of their headquarters overseas to “make it official.”

He, however, said that while some companies would have planned their launches in advance, they were reluctant to disclose their plans to the competition too early.

“If I tell you I'm launching a very cheap MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) in March, the competition could also choose to do the same soon to avoid losing market share within the segment,” he said.

Industry observers are hopeful of seeing more foreign car manufacturers setting up operations in Malaysia to promote local assembly and ultimately, the production of cheaper vehicles.

Last year saw several foreign auto players tying up with local partners to capitalise on sales growth within the Asean region. The notable ones included DRB-HICOM Bhd tying the knot with Germany's Volkswagen AG, Nasim Sdn Bhd (a member of the Naza group of companies) teaming up with France's Automobiles Peugeot and the link-up between Berjaya Corp Bhd and BYD Auto Co Ltd of China.

With the excise duty exemption for hybrid cars below 2,000cc under Budget 2011, many industry observers expect a boost in hybrid vehicles this year.

The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) had forecast total industry volume (TIV) to hit 570,000 units in 2010, a new record high since hitting 552,316 units in 2005.

For the nine-month period ending November, TIV had already hit 550,391 units, MAA said in a report last month.

In a news report in November, MAA president Aishah Ahmad was quoted as saying that she expected TIV to grow at a marginal rate of 2% to 3% in 2011 versus 2010.

The MAA will announce its official forecast for 2011 when it reviews 2010's TIV performance later this month.

Research house OSK in a recent report forecast TIV to grow 4% on the back of a 5.8% gross domestic product growth this year.

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