Positive consumer sentiment, strong purchasing power and minimal impact from Bank Negara's newly implemented responsible lending guidelines collectively helped boost sales of premium vehicles in February.
Prominent brands such as Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus, Volvo, Audi and Porsche registered marked sales increases in February versus the same month a year earlier.
“It is due to a combination of attractive sales and after-sales campaigns by manufacturers to clear 2011 manufactured cars and aggressive registration and delivery of orders,” said Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific automotive and transportation practice principal consultant Rajaswaran Tharmalingam.
“Further, continuous novel efforts to increase sales by manufacturers and strong consumer sentiments made it a better month,” he added.
Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) president Datuk Aishah Ahmad pointed out that Bank Negara's new lending guidelines, which came into effect on Jan 1, had little to no impact on buyers of premium vehicles.
“For this (premium) segment, even if the economy is affected, the impact would be little. Buyers from this segment have so much money that they can buy so many cars and getting their loans approved is not an issue,” she said after MAA's AGM on Friday.
Under the central bank's new lending guidelines, loans are now approved based on net income compared with gross income previously, in addition to which is the need for more documentation.
Aishah said the impact was more profound on the lower capacity passenger car segment.
“Some buyers from this segment may now need to combine their total income with their spouses just to qualify for a loan,” she added.
OSK Investment Research analyst Ahmad Maghfur Usman said sales of premium vehicles were buoyant in February on strong demand from new model line-ups introduced.
During the month under review, sales of Mercedes Benz vehicles increased to 466 units from 430 units in the previous corresponding period while BMW's sales grew to 383 units from 356 units a year earlier, according to statistics from the MAA.
In the same month, sales of Lexus vehicles more than doubled to 109 units from 52 units a year earlier while Volvo sold 95 units versus 55 units previously.
An industry observer said sales of Lexus was boosted by the demand for its CT200h hybrid, which has a 1.8-litre petrol engine and qualifies for the excise duty exemption that was announced under Budget 2011.
Audi more then doubled its sales to 115 units from 50 units a year earlier while Porsche increased its sales to 24 units from 16 units previously.
Rajaswaran said he expected a positive outlook for premium vehicle sales for the month of March.
“The outlook for premium cars in March would be encouraging and poised to increase, mainly driven by combination of on-going attractive sales and after-sales campaigns by manufacturers to clear remaining 2011 manufactured cars, a healthy order bank, new models appeal and the minimal impact of Bank Negara's responsible lending guidelines on premium consumers.”
Ahmad also said he was optimistic about premium vehicle sales in March.
“March will be better as business activities normalise,” he said.