Malaysia’s new-vehicle sales edged up 2.2% year-on-year to 58,919 units in March, and the industry is predicting demand will continue at this level.

The Malaysian Automotive Assn. says in a statement it sees April sales remaining at the current level and credits the improving market to new-model introductions, a push for deliveries from companies with a financial year ending March 31 and a longer working month.

Among the new offers is Perodua’s Myvi XT compact car. The Malaysian auto maker aims to sell 1,600 units a month to its target market of university students and new graduates.

Since its launch in 2005, Myvi in its various configurations has sold more than 750,000 units to make it Perodua’s best-selling model in the past eight years, accounting for 50% of deliveries.

Association data shows March new-car deliveries rose 3.1% to 52,122 units, while commercial- vehicle sales fell 3.7% to 6,797.

First-quarter sales of 159,910 units were up 1.4% from year-ago’s 157,734. The car segment was up 2% after three months to 142,528 units, while the CV result slipped 3.2% to 17,382.

Association President Aishah Ahmad says a recent gradual increase in interest rates on hire- purchase loans is unlikely to have an impact on vehicle sales. “An increase of between 0.3% and 0.4% in HP rates is quite acceptable to the industry,” she tells The Star newspaper.

Federation of Motor and Credit Companies Association of Malaysia President Tony Khor tells the newspaper the “quite minimal” increase of between 0.4% and 0.7% left rates between 2.7% and 3.1%.

“However, you can still get new vehicles at previous interest rates as many car companies offer promotions and incentives to buyers,” Khor says.

Malaysian automakers increased their output 2.3% year-on-year in March to 50,174 units, raising the 3-month total 5.0% to 153,357.

The car build rose 5.5% to 46,807 units for a year-to-date total up 7.5% to 140,773. Responding to slowing demand, the CV build tumbled 27.6% to 3,367 units, leaving first-quarter output off 16.5% to 12,584.