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Swift allure proves sticky, finds Maruti

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A little over 80,000 customers across the country are awaiting delivery of a new Maruti Suzuki Swift. However, with no certainty of a breakthrough in talks with the striking workers at Maruti’s factory in Manesar, Haryana, expected anytime soon, the wait is expected to stretch to several months.

According to some Maruti dealers, there have been almost zero cancellations for the new Swift by customers, despite being asked to wait till April 2012 or later for delivery. The new Swift, which has become the most popular car in the Maruti line, has been facing severe production constraints since its launch in mid-August, owing to the stir at its factory.

Competing cars against the Swift in the premium category such as the Nissan's Micra, Toyota's Etios Liva and Volkswagen's Polo haven't seen any unusual spike in sale so far, say their dealers.

This is despite Maruti having asked its dealers to stop undertaking fresh Swift bookings, for fear of an inability to meet delivery schedules. “We do not have a clear idea when production will resume. So, we have advised our dealers to halt all new bookings of the Swift,” said a company official.

“Demand is under pressure for now, with enquiries refusing to translate into sales. We were expecting some cancelled bookings of the Swift to come our way but that did not happen,” said a Nissan dealer.

With an average waiting period for six months, the new Swift, built on an all-new platform, is one of the few car models defying the general slowdown in vehicle demand in the country.

“We are avoiding taking further bookings of the car but customers are persistent. There hasn't been a single cancellation of order for the Swift despite the uncertainty. We are offering customers the Ritz as an alternative but there has been no change,” said a dealer of Maruti in Delhi.

Supplies of engines from Suzuki Powertrain India, where Maruti holds 30 per cent direct equity and sources its engines from, has also taken a hit as a result of the strike spilling over to its unit.

Although Maruti has stated that it is in the process of making fresh recruitments at the troubled factory to increase production, estimates suggest the company will not be able to normalise production of the most in-demand products like the Swift.

"Even if Maruti scales up production to, say, 15,000 units per month of the Swift, it will take more than six months to meet the demand. Even this level of production could only be achieved in a gradual manner and not overnight," said a component supplier.

The Swift was one of the few silver linings for the country's largest car producer. The domestic car market has been increasingly losing steam following steep inflationary pressures and heightened lending rates over several months.

Maruti sales in the first five months of 2011-12, ending August, are down by 10 per cent to 324,000 units in the local market as compared to the same month a year before. Apart from the Swift’s lack of availability, the combined sales of the Ritz, Swift and Estilo had decreased by nearly 25 per cent till August.