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KUALA LUMPUR: The automotive sector is in for a bumpy ride for the remainder of 2022 as rising inflation, inconsistencies such as labour and parts shortages and the discontinuation of the efficacious vehicle tax holiday could potentially dampen sales.

Vehicle sales in May slumped 12% month-on-month (m-o-m) to 49,603 units, as production was affected by the shorter working month amid the persistent chip shortage and component shipment delays.

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While several marques had softer sales as a result, RHB Investment Bank noted that market leader Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd’s (Perodua) sharp 26% m-o-m decline dragged total industry volume (TIV) down in May.

“Excluding Perodua, May’s TIV would have risen by 0.5% m-o-m.

“Perodua’s shortfall was mainly due to plant shutdowns during Aidil Fitri and from the supply shortfall from a key vendor, due to the labour shortage.”

“It is envisaged that many prospective and speculative buyers will take advantage of this outcome and place token deposit bookings, just to lock in orders. That would skew bookings.” Based on this assumption, Maybank IB said vehicle bookings could surge tremendously in June and then fall drastically from next month and into the second half of 2022.

Year-on-year sales in May rose 5%, but mainly due to the lower base in the previous corresponding period, which was affected by nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Going forward, RHB said there are also concerns of persistently high inflation. This, it added, may dampen consumer sentiment in 2023 and pose potential risks to demand.

“Inflation may also post margin compression risks to the auto players. We like Sime Darby Bhd and Bermaz Auto Bhd for their ability to weather inflationary pressures, given their relatively more premium marques and for the recovery in Sime Darby’s auto sales in China.”

Other downside risks that may hamper the automotive sector’s recovery, said RHB, include persistent shortages of key components, tighter bank approvals for car loans, the weaker ringgit and delays in new model launches.

For now, RHB is maintaining its TIV forecast of 615,000 units for 2022.

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