PETALING JAYA: MIDF Research is keeping its "neutral" call on the local auto industry given softer consumer demand due to uncertainties in the economic outlook. Malaysia's total industry volume (TIV) for February declined 1.6% year-on-year and 0.4% month-on-month to 50,400 units. In its research note yesterday, MIDF Research believes the slower sales was mainly due to the shorter working days during Chinese New Year. "We also believe the slower sales are attributed to softening demand amidst rising living costs and the cautious economic outlook," the research house noted. Meanwhile, The Malaysian Automotive attributed the slower sales to consumers holding back purchases in anticipation of lower vehicle sales after the Goods and Services Tax imposition in April 2015. MIDF Research however, is positive on MBM Resources Bhd and Berjaya Auto Bhd which benefitted from the strong growth in Perodua and Mazda vehicles respectively as well as the weaker Japanese yen. It noted that MBM's share price recently eased after the ringgit weakened against the yen. "Nevertheless, the RM/¥100 exchange rate is still below its 2014 average of RM3.10/¥100. We estimate that every ±1% change in the RM/¥100 exchange rate would impact earnings by ±1.6%," it added. MIDF Research's TIV projection for 2015 remains unchanged at 670,000 units, representing a 0.5% growth. Perodua recorded another strong monthly sale in February which exceeded 18,600 units, thanks to the successful launch of the Perodua Axia and the introduction of the Perodua Myvi facelift in late January. Proton sales, meanwhile stayed weak with 8,300 units, a 22.7% lower y-o-y, representing a market share of 16.4%. Honda maintained top spot within the foreign segment with 6,000 units on the back of the highly demanded new HRV and new variant CRV. Honda is targeting 85,000 sales for 2015, banking on attractive models line up. Despite recovery to second spot, Toyota sales remained relatively weak at 5,000 units and Nissan slipped back to third spot with 3,600 sales.