April auto sales subdued


Passenger vehicle (PV) sales in the domestic market last month grew moderately, with eight of the country’s top 19 automobile makers together recording a growth of nine per cent to sell 171,130 units.

Sales in April last year were 157,101 units. These numbers do not include those of Hyundai Motor India, the second largest car maker, which is yet to release its data.In March this year, sales increased by 20.6 per cent to a record 292,118 units (data from Siam, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers), due to buyers advancing purchases on apprehensions of duty increases in the Union budget. (Click here for chart)



Market leader Maruti Suzuki registered modest growth of 3.6 per cent last month, to 90,255 units. Its sales grew on the back of demand for the new launches of the Swift and the sedan DZire. While demand for premium hatchbacks and the entry-level sedan went up by 43 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively, its bread-and-butter Alto segment continued to show a downward trend. Sales in that category (M800, Alto, A-Star, WagonR) declined by over a fourth, to 30,720 units.

At Tata Motors, too, sales of the Nano small car dipped by a fifth to 8,028 units. PV sales in the company dropped three per cent to 22,658 units last month. Experts say with interest rates remaining high, entry-level buyers are being cautious and deferring purchases, which have led to a slowing in sales, particularly in the small car segment.

General Motors, riding high on the diesel version of its small car, the Chevrolet Beat, launched last year, also saw sales slipping by 20 per cent to 8,005 units. P Balendran, vice president, General Motors India, said: “Sales were not on expected lines, as uncertainty in fuel prices, hike in excise duty and in local taxes in some states continue to put a lot of pressure on the automobile market. Also, a lot of purchases were advanced by customers in February and March, fearing duty hikes in the Union budget.”

“With the Reserve Bank going for a CRR (banks’ cash reserve ratio) cut to improve market liquidity and reducing repo rates by 50 basis points, we expect the market to improve in the coming months,” he added. Siam has projected growth of 10-12 per cent for the PV segment in the current financial year.

However, the optimism is guarded even among those which managed to post strong growth in April. Toyota Kirloskar Motor saw sales grow 49 per cent on the back of the new Innova and the Etios series, to 143,78 units. Yet, it remains wary of the mood in the market. Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director (marketing), said, “The Etios series, Innova, Fortuner continued to register growth in April. However, the market sentiments seem to be low, with enquiry levels going down across the industry.”

While Mahindra & Mahindra fared well in increasing sales by a third to 20,558 units on the back of the diesel models in its portfolio, Honda Siel trebled volumes to 7,075 units on increased offtake of Brio, the small car, on resumption of normal production at its manufacturing facility in India. The company had witnessed slow sales last year due to disruptions in supply of components because of the tsunami in Japan and the flood in Thailand.