Top Rank: What are the worst-selling cars in Malaysia?

CY Foong · Oct 9, 2020 02:30 PM

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Finding the perfect car is the motto here at WapCar but "perfect" can be pretty subjective. After all, sometimes you want a car that fits your personality. Instead of going for the safe option, you would choose an alternative for wanting to stand out.

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Consider what we think first before you decide

For example, choosing a Kia Picanto over a Perodua Axia, a Citroen C3 Aircross over a Perodua Myvi, a Renault Koleos over a Honda CR-V, or even a Toyota RAV4 over a BMW X1. Wait, that last one is more on price than sharing the same segment but you get the idea.

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Calm down, heart

There is nothing wrong with being different. After all, sometimes you might find a gem that others may not discover. 

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The automotive definition of playing safe

Still, the decision of your next car purchase should be up to you, whether it’s a popular choice or something different. Just maybe skip on these 10, which are the worst-selling cars in Malaysia.

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Where will the Proton Juara be on this list? Read on!

Granted, we do not have a proper sales figure for most of these cars but when is the last time you saw one of these on the road? For this week's Top Rank (or should we call it Bottom Rank?), we’ll divide this up into a few categories but apart from one, the other categories will have only 1 representative each.

A-segment/Entry-level: Naza Sutera

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Let’s start off this list with what is hands down the worst Malaysian car ever. The Naza Sutera was Naza’s first-ever model that wasn’t a rebadged Kia.

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Safe to say that Naza did a better job in toning down the design of the Hafei

Instead, it was a rebadged and slightly redesigned Hafei Lobo, a Chinese car designed by Pininfarina and had Lotus-tuned suspension. It was powered by a 1.1-litre straight-4 engine produced by a joint venture between Mitsubishi, Harbin Aviation, and a Malaysian company called MCIC.

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Launched in 2006, it competed against the Perodua Kancil and later the Viva. Starting from RM 35,996 for the GS, it was a cheap and interesting alternative. Then, people bought one...

What makes it so bad?

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Everything. Okay, it’s gonna be everything for all these cars but the Sutera set a poor benchmark. The Kancil felt like a Rolls Royce while the Sutera felt like a horse carriage from the Middle Ages.

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Then again, the Perodua was based on the Japanese Daihatsu while the Naza was based on the Chinese Hafei. As such, the quality control in the Sutera was absolutely iffy. There was an infamous complaint online which explained the problems faced by a Sutera owner, a mere 2 months after buying it brand-new.

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The slightly improved Forza

Whether that was true or not, the Sutera’s sales plummeted. Naza tried to fix things by launching a revised model known as the Forza with a few quality improvements. Sadly, sales were so low as Naza stopped production of the microcar in 2011.

A-segment/Entry-level: Chana Era CV6

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Our second car on the list which shares the same category as the Sutera is another Chinese car. The Chana Era CV6 was based on the Changan Benben and was sold by Berjaya Auto.

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Launched in 2009, the CV6 looked funky and prices started at RM 36,862 for the Standard which was powered by a Suzuki-sourced 1.3-litre engine. That gave it more grunt than the Perodua Viva for around the same size.

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There was also a Premium variant that started at RM 40,888 (gotta put in those 8s in the price) which gave you ABS, a driver airbag, a CD player, power windows, and alloy wheels. Sounds like a bargain, right?

What makes it so bad?

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Despite costing nearly the same price as a Viva with a bigger engine, Malaysians aren’t ready to buy a Chinese car yet 10 years ago. Especially with one so cheap like this, there’s bound to be a few problems.

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Mainly in terms of quality, which in the CV6 was best described as questionable. The plastic felt cheap and the finishing was poor. Exposed bolts and mounts, uneven plastic, it made you wonder why bother for something that felt like it can fall apart at any moment.

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Speaking of falling apart, the CV6 wasn’t exactly what you might call safe to be in. According to a crash test report by the Chinese New Car Assessment Program (C-NCAP), the CV6 scored 2 out of 5 stars or 18 out of 50 points. This placed it dead last among the cars tested at the time.

The CV6, therefore, didn’t cut it out for Malaysians but this isn’t the last we hear of Chana Era on this list.

B-segment sedan: Chery A160

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Malaysia’s first experience with Chinese cars began in 2005 when Chery broke through the Malaysian market with the A160. When the Chinese cars made their debut, they were priced very attractively.

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By attractively, they were priced as cheaper alternatives to Protons and Peroduas. As such, the A160 was clearly targeted to buyers who were considering a Proton Waja. At RM 61,519, the A160 had nearly the same specs as the Waja but came with ABS and dual airbags as standard.

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It was powered by a 1.6-litre Tritec engine that was co-developed by Chrysler and BMW in Brazil. Interestingly, the same engine was also used in the first-gen MINI Cooper. That meant you could have a MINI-powered sedan for way less. Another bargain win!

What makes it so bad?

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Despite using an engine derived from a Mini, that should probably count as a warning sign. The A160 was a woefully unreliable car. It became an issue when service centres began to run out of parts and they were hard to find.

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Worse was the quality of the A160. The Waja had some iffy build quality but that was nothing compared to the A160. Water leaking into the cabin and knobs that could fall off onto your hand were some of the complaints.

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Then came the elephant in the room. It was one of the first Chinese cars to be sold overseas and became a poster child for bad Chinese cars. A Russian automotive publication did a crash test on a Russian-spec A160 (called the Amulet) and the results were, well, we’ll let the video speak for itself.

Imagine getting yourself caught in an accident in that? Even with the airbags, the end result would be fatal. The video went viral and of course, this affected the perception on the safety of Chinese cars for years.

C-segment sedan: Chery A5

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Surprisingly, despite the setback faced earlier with the A160, Chery did not give up hope on Malaysia. It’s pretty funny looking back now but as the 2000s came to a close, it was the only Chinese brand making a presence here.

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Chery did come across a surprise success with one of their models which we’ll talk about later but the A5 was clearly not the successful one. Sharing a name with an Audi, the A5 was a Seat Toledo underneath.

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The Malaysian-spec A5 was powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine and was meant to compete with the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla Altis. But it cost RM 95,888 when it was launched in 2009.

What’s so bad about it?

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Other than the usual quality issues that plagued the A5. The reason why it sold so poorly was because of bad marketing. Or at least a complete lack of it.

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The problem with most of these Chinese cars on this list was that none were given to the media to review. Maybe they were ashamed of the car or even scared the criticism will sway away potential buyers?

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The Malaysian distributor, Chery Alado expected 100 units of the A5 to be sold monthly. However, because so few people had heard of it and that it was powered by Chery’s own in-house engine, this meant that monthly sales were in their single to double digits instead.

C-segment SUV: Borgward BX5

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One of the more recent offerings, the Borgward BX5 is billed as one of the closest competitors to the Proton X70, seeing that both models were Chinese. Unlike the early batches of the X70, the BX5 is assembled locally (CKD) from the start.

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The BX5 is a handsome-looking C-segment SUV equipped with 6 airbags, brake assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. It comes with 2 engine options, a turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-pot and a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine.

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Both models are mated to a 6-speed automatic with the 1.4-litre being front-wheel drive, while the 2.0-litre comes with 4WD. The BX5 isn’t lacking in equipment either with automatic headlights, LED DRLs and taillights, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, and an in-built toll reader.

What’s so bad about it?

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The BX5 isn’t exactly what you might call affordable. Prices start at RM 118,950 for the standard 1.4T which when you look at it as a fresh-faced carmaker, isn’t exactly one that could spark some confidence. Especially when there is plenty of competition in this segment.

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The Borgward Isabella from around the 1950s and 1960s

Yes, the marketing comms and salespeople will try to convince you that the Borgward is a well-known German brand but that brand was already gone by the time its Chinese owners took over. It is as German as the current MG is British.

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The BX5 on display at the Malaysia Autoshow

Just like the A5 from earlier, none of the BX5 was offered to the media for a review. It was featured at the Malaysia Autoshow in 2018 but the official launch was a bit more muted, having held in Penang a year later. As such, it got very little publicity despite having a decently active social media presence.

D-segment SUV: Great Wall Haval H5

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Haval is one of the very few Chinese car brands that are doing quite decently here in Malaysia. While the H1 and H2 could be spotted around town, the same could not be said about its flagship model, the H9.

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But instead of focusing on that, we would like to give a shout-out to its predecessor. Haval first appeared here as Great Wall in 2014 and its first models were the Haval H5 SUV and the unfortunately-named Wingle pick-up truck.

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The Haval H5 came to Malaysia wearing a Great Wall badge and was powered by a 2.0-litre common rail turbodiesel with 150 PS and 310 Nm. This was mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission.

What’s so bad about it?

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Priced at RM 120,000, the Haval H5 was a budget D-segment SUV priced similar to a Honda CR-V. When it comes to D-segment SUVs, especially those built on a ladder-frame chassis like the H5, the main point here would be the durability and at least some refinement.

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Well, in the H5, it’s more of the latter that was an issue. You’d probably get better refinement in an older car. The quality wasn’t what you might consider as plush either with the leather seats looking and feeling more like vinyl.

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That is what you wouldn’t want to get after spending six figures on a car, let alone a large SUV. For most Malaysians that would be a deal-breaker and Haval later found a bit more success with its smaller models.

Executive: Ssangyong Chairman

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Finally, a little break from the Chinese as we venture to a brand some of you might be familiar with. Ssangyong was considered as the Korean Mercedes-Benz which made sense as both companies were close partners.

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Massively ugly...

It was introduced here in Malaysia around the nineties and while the brand was more famous for its SUVs and MPVs, Ssangyong did sell a flagship sedan in the form of the Chairman.

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The Chairman looked like a Mercedes W140 S-Class but it actually shared the same platform as the W210 E-Class. There were 3 engines available which were a 3.2-litre inline-6, a 2.8-litre inline-6, and a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder. All were petrol-powered.

What’s so bad about it?

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2 words, resale value. The Ssangyong Chairman had very bad depreciation and the brand had zero value. The fact that they were old Mercedes-Benz models underneath didn’t do much convincing to Malaysian buyers.

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The price of the Korean luxury car ranged from RM 168,000 to RM 208,000 in 2002. A lightly used Mercedes-Benz W210 probably made a bit more sense and for a lot of buyers, a badge played quite a big importance in terms of prestige and credibility.

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Between the 3-pointed star and some Korean brand that is spelled like a stutter, it’s easy to see which of these buyers would go for.

MPV: Chery Maxime

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The late-2000s and early 2010s saw a boom in MPV sales as companies like Nissan, Proton, and Perodua tried to cash in on this burgeoning market. The Grand Livina, Exora, and Alza became huge successes as they kickstarted a brief minivan renaissance in Malaysia.

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Another unexpected success was the Chery Eastar which was known as the V5 in China. The Eastar was assembled in Johor Bahru and prices started from less than RM 80,000. It was a huge bargain considering it was powered by an underpowered 2.4-litre Mitsubishi SOHC engine (128 PS/198 Nm).

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You know the car has made it when there's a club formed (Credit)

Looking a little bit like a Mitsubishi Grandis for way less didn’t deter it to be successful given Malaysians’ love for rebadging certain models. That is until it was time to replace it.

What’s so bad about it?

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When it came to replacing the Eastar, Chery was so confident with its successor that it was decided that Malaysia would be the place to make its world debut. The Maxime was a slightly improved Eastar with a more modern engine and transmission.

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So, what went wrong? For one, the price of the Maxime was bumped up to start from RM 86,800. It might still sound affordable but in 2015, the Exora and Alza were dominating sales and other competitors either slipped in sales or pulled out of the market altogether.

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Then there’s the more "modern" engine. The 2.0-litre ACTECO 4-cylinder with dual variable valve timing was very much improved over the older Mitsubishi unit (138 PS/182 Nm) but the refinement wasn’t all that great. The CVT gearbox was a tad bit noisy too - which sounds familiar. It was still more of a budget Chinese MPV underneath despite the hefty price.

Microvan: Chana Era CM8

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On the opposite spectrum of the MPV boom of the late 2000s and early 2010s, we have the Chana Era CM8. It must be an achievement to have what is basically the whole model line-up being featured in the worst-selling cars list.

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The CM8 might be marketed as an MPV when it was launched but it was more like a microvan. Launched 8 years after the Proton Juara, the CM8 was one of the cheapest cars on sale, let alone the cheapest “MPV” starting from RM 38,888 in 2009.

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The CM8 was built on a monocoque chassis and was powered by a 1.3-litre Suzuki-sourced engine (80 PS/102 Nm) which was only mated to a 5-speed manual. It was assembled locally by Oriental Assemblers in Johor which was one of the reasons why it was so cheap.

What’s so bad about it?

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A rare sight, a functioning CM8 in 2020!

Look at it! It just looks fugly. As Chana Era was essentially Changan which partnered with Suzuki, the CM8 looked like a Suzuki ER-V/Every that went for a botched surgery.

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Apart from being assembled in Malaysia, another reason for its cheapness would be the poor quality of the interior. Fit and finishing were on the rough side and you know your car is bad when the Sutera/Forza had better plastic quality.

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Even it was marketed as an MPV, it didn’t much belie the fact that the CM8 was basically a van. From the driving position to the position of the engine just below the passenger’s seat, it had an aura of a van. You wouldn’t call a Perodua Rusa an MPV, would you?

Pick-up truck: LMG Trekker

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The Tata Xenon from India, a rare sight unless they're used by Pos Malaysia

Rounding up the list is from the pick-up truck category. Honestly, there had been numerous pick-up trucks that tried to knock down the Toyota Hilux from its pedestal but if we just stick it to commercial vehicles, that would be totally unfair.

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Clockwise from top left: Savanna, Grandtiger, T60 and Whimp...I mean Wingle

In terms of pick-up trucks, there were the Bison Savanna, ZX Auto Grandtiger, the aforementioned Great Wall Wingle, and the Maxus T60 just to name a few. But out of these trucks that tried to make a name for themselves, nothing is more infamous than the LMG Trekker.

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The Trekker was launched in 2006 and prices began from RM 84,888 which made it really cheap for a pick-up truck considering that the Toyota Hilux cost a little over RM100,000. What’s more amazing was its Hydroxene technology which was able to generate hydrogen.

What’s so bad about it?

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Uh...

The Hydroxene technology was actually powered by premium-grade snake oil with some BS additives. The reality was such a technology wasn’t deemed feasible especially in rebadged Chinese pick-up truck. At the time, even large auto companies like BMW and Mazda were still experimenting on how to produce a feasible hydrogen-powered car.

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Obviously, this sounded way too good to be true. The tech of lies however proved to be a distraction against the true shortcomings of the truck.

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While it was assembled in Malaysia, the quality was awful, even for a pick-up truck. These were meant to be workhorses that could withstand whatever life threw at them. The opposite happened instead with shoddy workmanship and unreliable engines. LMG closed down not long after along with its “advanced” Hydroxene technology.

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The Maxus G10 sold pretty well here despite only known for selling vans and trucks

You might notice a pattern in this list, all but one were developed in China. There are some factors as to why these cars didn’t do so well but that shouldn’t be a deterrent for any potential carmakers looking to set up shop in Malaysia.

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The MG HS shows some potential

Some brands like Haval and Maxus do quite well and the resurgence of Proton thanks to Geely has transformed the perception of Chinese cars here. So, MG and Wuling wouldn’t have to worry as long as they can market and price their models attractively, there might be a chance for them to do well.

If you happened to own one of these cars, do share with us your experience in our forum. We'd love to hear your experiences in owning one of these flops.

CY Foong

Writer

Traded advertising for a career that fits his passion for cars. Enjoys spotting cars during his free time and has a soft spot for Japanese Kei cars but drives a thirsty manual sedan.

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