Visitors inspect Proton cars at its headquarters in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pic: AP.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — An industry group says auto sales in Malaysia rose 4.5 percent to a record high in 2013, but are expected to slow this year as the rising cost of living curbs consumer spending.

The Malaysian Automotive Association says sales increased to 655,793 vehicles last year, buoyed by a robust economy and launches of new car models with lower prices. This year, the association forecasts growth to ease to 2.2 percent to reach 670,000 vehicles.

Association president Aishah Ahmad says Wednesday that consumers are belt tightening due to rising inflation and are likely to seek cheaper cars.

Inflation rose after the government cut subsidies for petrol and sugar last year as part of fiscal reforms. Electricity tariffs have also been raised this month for the first time in two years.