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Automobiles

Malaysia auto sales drop 99% on coronavirus lockdown

Car buyers slow to return after country sold just 141 vehicles last month

Slow lane: Auto sales in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia remain sluggish even after coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Malaysia recorded just 141 sales of new automobiles in April, down 99.7% on the year in a sign of how deeply the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the economy.

Business activities have largely resumed after authorities eased social distancing rules on May 4, but car sales continue to slump. Customers have been slow to return, and banks are applying stricter credit checks to auto loans.

Sales volume this month will be much higher than in April but far lower than typical monthly levels prior to the restrictions, which were imposed in March, the Malaysian Automotive Association has predicted.

Malaysia's annual auto sales have held steady around 600,000 vehicles for the past few years. But estimates point to a plunge to 400,000 this year. Sales for the first four months of the year declined 45% to 106,600 autos.

April's automobile production similarly plunged 99.5% from a year earlier to 275 vehicles.

Local manufacturers Proton and Perodua, along with foreign makers such as Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, restated sales at dealerships in stages this month. But output appears likely to fall far short of planned levels this year.

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