iCar Asia has speed machines like this 1995 Proton Iswara on its Malaysian site. Pic: Carlist.my

Early in 2018 it looked like selling cars online in south-east Asia was a chance to write yourself a blank cheque.

But a year later, it looks like iCar Asia (ASX:ICQ) might have hit a wall.

The company says they took 36 per cent more in cash receipts in the December quarter 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

But what they didn’t say was cash takings have also been falling for the last two quarters, and growth in the period prior to that — the June quarter — was weak at a mere 2 per cent.

Receipts were in fact down quarter-on-quarter by 5.5 per cent.

The cash take was $3m and they’re still burning through $2.5m a quarter.

This hasn’t been missed by investors either, who started leaving the stock in October, sending it down to an all-time low of 11c in late December.

The intraday 42 per cent rise that followed today’s news, pushing the stock up to 18c, could be the start of a tentative recovery.

iCar Asia shares over the last year.

iCar Asia has 10 sites in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand hocking new and used cars.

They said Thailand hit breakeven in the quarter and expect Malaysia to follow in September, and the whole business should be earning rather than burning cash by the end of 2019.

The business has been making a push towards better quality listings and fewer free listings which pushed lead generation and overall listings down by 7 per cent each.