KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysia's biggest automaker, Perodua, on Thursday launched its first 1.5 liter-engine passenger car, which it hopes will boost sales hurt by a disruption in supply.
Perodua, which is partly owned by Daihatsu Motor Corp., was forced to cut production earlier this year after the March 11 earthquake in Japan disrupted imports of engine components and accessories.
Managing director Aminar Rashid Salleh said the new 1.5-liter Myvi compact car would open up a new market segment for Perodua, which usually produces cars with engines of between 0.6 and 1.3 liters. It also has a seven-seat, 1.5-liter multipurpose vehicle launched two years ago.
"We believe there is a demand for it. With this 1.5 liter Myvi, we hope we will be able to continue the momentum to be on track to achieve sales of 190,000 units this year," he told reporters.
The Myvi has been the country's top selling car since it made its debut in 2005.
Last year, Perodua sales hit a record high of 188,600 vehicles to give it a 31 percent market share.
Analysts said the 1.5 liter Myvi, priced between 51,000 ringgit ($16,450) and 62,000 ringgit ($20,000), would compete directly with offerings from Malaysian state-owned rival Proton.
Perodua overtook national carmaker Proton as the top selling car brand in Malaysia in 2006.
The government has suggested a consolidation between the two players, which jointly control about 60 percent of the domestic market, to boost the auto sector. But Perodua earlier this year rejected the proposal, saying it would not benefit from a merger.
Proton, whose fortunes have dwindled due to greater competition, has not been able to find a foreign partner, partly due to the government's reluctance to cede control over the national icon.
In contrast, Perodua, which was set up as second national car maker in 1993, a decade after Proton, flourished because of its strong ties with Daihatsu, which owns a controlling 51 percent stake in Perodua's manufacturing outfit. Malaysian firms however, retain a majority stake in Perodua's holding company.