Honda was No.1 …. and Toyota was No.1 too?

At this time of the year, after the sales figures for the previous year have been announced by the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA), the companies that were No.1 will usually be publicising their achievement through advertisements or via the media.

National and Non-National segments
In Malaysia, we have an interesting situation where the best performer is not just a single company and it is not because there are ties in sales volumes for the year. It is because the industry has long been divided into ‘National’ – ie the Malaysian brands of Perodua and Proton – and ‘Non-National’ – which covers all the other brands, even if their vehicles are assembled locally.

Perodua revises 2023 targets for production and sales October was a record month of sales as well as production for Perodua, with 33,836 units delivered and 35,111 units made in a single month. Cumulatively, the total volume for 10 months of this year have been 280,52 units produced and 267.063 units delivered. With this surge in sales and production, the Malaysian carmaker has revised its production target to 338,000 units with a higher sales volume of 325,000 units. This is 8,000 more units that announced for production in January, and 11,000 more units will be delivered. ““While some issues such as the long-term availability of semiconductor chips still persist, but we are able to secure enough so that our fourth quarter performance would be the best in our history,” said Perodua’s President & CEO, Dato’ Sri Zainal Abidin Ahmad. He explained that the increase in production was achieved with available resources within current automotive ecosystem, hinting at its growth potential for both demand and supply side of the industry.
In total sales of all vehicles, Perodua has been the clear market leader since 2006.

Perodua is a clear No.1
After overtaking Proton in 2006, Perodua has been No. 1 carmaker in terms of total volume as well as in the National segment. Last year, it sold 330,325 vehicles, an increase of 17.1% over its volume in 2022.

In other countries, ‘there are no points for second place’ (as Iceman said to Maverick in ’Top Gun’) but in Malaysia, the non-Malaysian brands are still of significance so the Non-National segment was created to enable the achievements of the brands to also be highlighted.

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For the past ten years or so, the fight for top spot has been between Toyota and Honda and each year, both companies have typically advertised themselves as being ‘No. 1’ – in the Non-National segment, of course. This can sometimes be confusing to consumers who wonder how two companies can make the same claim – and yet their numbers are obviously different.

No misrepresentation
There is no misrepresentation – both companies are making factual statements and the wording is also clear (although not everyone may understand!). Honda Malaysia states that 2023 was the tenth consecutive year it was No.1 and it mentions ‘passenger vehicle segment’. This is the important part: passenger vehicles do not include pick-up trucks although such vehicles are used for personal motoring rather than for business purposes.

Honda doesn’t sell pick-up trucks nor commercial vehicles and in fact, it is only in just a few markets like North America that it has such a vehicle (the Ridgeline). In the rest of the world, it sells sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs and MPVs. The brand is popular so its models sell well and volumes are considerable, enough to make up for the lack of a truck, especially in the ASEAN region where Honda comes closest to Toyota.

Honda No1
Honda was No.1 again in the Non-National segment of the Malaysian market, but with a range of only sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs. It has never had a pick-up truck (except in North America) which is also popular in ASEAN markets.

Honda Ridgeline [2023]
Honda sold small commercial vehicles in Malaysia in the 1970s but stopped after that. It has a pick-up truck called the Ridgeline which is mainly for the North American market.
In 2023, Honda sold 80,027 vehicles, of which 35,814 units were SUVs (BR-V, WR-V, HR-V, CR-V). It claims No. 1 spot with that volume because Toyota’s total volume of passenger vehicles (which excluded pick-up trucks, as we explained) was 75,337 units for the year.

 

Hilux pick-up truck boosts Toyota’s numbers
On the other hand, Toyota can also include in its total volume pick-up trucks and commercial vehicles. And with pick-up trucks, it has been the market leader since 2005. Last year, UMW Toyota Motor delivered 27,447 trucks and when another 3,422 Hiace vans are added, the brand’s total becomes 106,296 units.

Toyota Hilux [2024]
The Hilux is a major contributor to Toyota sales, not only in Malaysia, but also globally. After the Ford F-Series (which is sold mainly in North America), the Hilux would be the bestselling truck in the rest of the world.
So it depends on which measurement you refer to and Toyota is obviously ahead of Honda (for the third consecutive year) in terms of vehicles sold in all segments. Clearly, the Hilux is an important contributor to its numbers each year, not only in Malaysia but also globally as it is a top-seller outside the USA.

 

Advertising achievements in such a way is not unique to Malaysia as it is also done in some other countries. It all depends on how the industry and market categorises vehicles and segments. You can’t blame companies for trying to make the data to show their brand in the best way as long as they use genuine data and make clear the way they calculate the data. In Malaysia, the MAA has been compiling the data since 1967 and makes it available to the public for anyone to verify.

Model sales data cannot be made public
It’s unfortunate, however, that we will have to wait 12 months before details of sales volume by model can be known so we will know which model were the nation’s No.1 sellers in each category. The reason for this is because the powerful Competition Commission makes it an offence for the companies to reveal model sales figures (unless they are 12 months old) to the public. Rather than see the sharing of the information as an act of  transparency, it regards such sharing as being ‘cartel-like’ and therefore an offence under the Competition Act.

BMW Group Malaysia is No.1 again in premium segment

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