Hyundai bucks falling trend in passenger vehicles

Sluggish demand and uncertain economic conditions have failed to stop Korean automobile maker Hyundai Motor India's Xcent compact sedan and Grand i10 hatchback from making inroads in the passenger vehicle market.

This is against the backdrop of a fall in sales of Maruti Suzuki's Swift hatchback and DZire compact sedan and Honda's Amaze compact sedan last month. While the companies have blamed the decline on inventory correction and realignment of production plans, sector experts said Hyundai's entry in the the premium hatchback and compact sedan segments had increased the competition.

Since Xcent's launch on March 12, sales of the DZire have dipped 14 per cent year-on-year to 17,237 units and 18 per cent to 16,008 in March and April, respectively. Though sales of the Amaze grew threefold to 7,374 units in March, it tumbled 31 per cent to 3,355 units in April. Hyundai, on the other hand, has received a little over 16,000 bookings for the Xcent in six weeks of its launch and sold 6,663 units in April.

Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice-president (marketing & sales), Hyundai Motor India, said, "Sales in the sub-four-metre compact sedan segment have fallen four per cent in April due to sluggish market conditions. However, Xcent has received an overwhelming response. Within the six weeks of launch, we have received 150,000 enquiries for Xcent. We have had 40,000 test drive requests. There is a significant rise in footfalls at dealerships across regions and most dealerships are witnessing record levels of daily bookings."

The Xcent has become No 2 in the compact sedan segment. Among premium hatchbacks, sales of the Swift dropped about two per cent in March to 19,304 units and around four per cent to 15,874 in April. Honda sold only 2,034 Brio models in the two months. In contrast, Hyundai sold 82,708 Grand i10 models at an average of 10,340 units a month since the car's launch in September.

A senior Maruti Suzuki executive said though wholesale volumes of the Swift and DZire had fallen in April because of inventory correction, retail volumes for both the models had risen eight per cent.

Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice-president (marketing & sales), Honda Cars India, said wholesale sales of the Amaze fell as the company had to close plants on April 10 and 24 because of elections and a rejig in production plans to meet the demand for the new City sedan. "We have a huge waiting period for the City, stretching up to four months for some variants. We had to adjust our production plan accordingly," he said.

Hyundai's Srivastava said the Xcent was being accepted by customers, especially youth, because of more boot space, a rear air-conditioner vent and a push button to start or stop the engine, among other features. "The Grand i10 has been well-received by customers because it offers good value for money. The Xcent is now taking that momentum forward. We hope to do better than the sector and improve our market share this year," he added.

Hyundai has about a fifth of the overall market and expects higher volumes this year. In all, the company sold 35,248 vehicles in April, a nine per cent rise over the year-ago period. Sales of passenger vehicles in the country fell about a tenth year-on-year in April.