PETALING JAYA: Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Research is maintaining its neutral rating on the country's automotive sector this year, with MBM Resources Bhd as its top pick, with a target price of RM4. Its analyst Daniel Wong said the outlook was premised on the data from Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) that showed a weak start for January, with total industry volume (TIV) stagnating at 50,600 units after the end of 2014 year-end promotions, as he believes consumers are holding back purchases ahead of the implementation of Goods & Services Tax (GST) this April. "Nevertheless, we maintained our 2015 TIV assumption at 663,000 units, with higher national car sales to offset the decline in foreign marques," he said in a report yesterday. Wong said Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) maintained its top spot with a 31.8% market share and 16,100 sales in January, which was up 32.9% year-on-year (y-o-y) and down 15.1% month-on-month (m-o-m), as it is targeting 208,000 sales for 2015, driven by a full year contribution of Axia and newly launched Myvi. Meanwhile, he said Proton Holdings Bhd (Proton) sales remained weak with 8,900 units (-8.6% y-o-y; +2.3% mom) with 17.6% market share for the same month, due to competition from other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which offer discounts and lower priced models. Toyota sales dropped to 4,100 units down 38.2% y-o-y and 63.4% m-o-m in January, due to lack of new models and intense competition, which resulted in it slipping to third spot among the foreign marques, despite its newly launched upgraded Vios and Hilux. "It (Toyota) is likely to fall behind its targeted 97,000 units for 2015," he said. Honda climbed to top spot within the foreign segment with 6,500 units, as it is targeting 85,000 sales (+9.5% y-o-y) for 2015, driven by continued strong demand for City and Jazz, as well as newly launched HRV and new CRV variant. Similarly, Nissan which is targeting to maintain its sales at 47,000 to 48,000 sales in 2015, banking on its newly launched Almera facelift and X-Trail, has also climbed ahead with 4,800 sales (+6.5% y-o-y; -12.3% m-o-m) and 9.5% market share. "Ford, Mitsubishi and Mazda (BAuto) sales remained strong in January, while other marques reported significant decline in sales," he added.