While the Maruti Vitara Brezza remains the No. 1 UV in India 32 months in a row, its growth is slowing while second-placed Hyundai Creta is seeing strong traction and maintaining strong buyer connect in the sub-Rs 20 lakh premium SUV segment.
What scooters are to the overall two-wheeler market is what utility vehicles (UVs) are to the passenger vehicle market. And, like poor sales of scooters (-0.27%) pulled down the two-wheeler market in FY2019, UVs too (+2.0%) impacted overall PV numbers which ended in single-digit growth of 2.70 percent. Scarcely a year ago, growth for both scooters and UVs was accelerating hard at 20 percent but got upended by the sharp slowdown in the second half of FY2019.
UVs makers clearly would be disappointed with the less-than-expected growth. While buyers do get wooed by the muscular designs of SUVs and even the practicality of being able to tackle bad roads with aplomb, the year gone by saw customers becoming wary of lower fuel efficiency delivered by these relatively bulkier vehicles as compared to their hatchback or sedan counterparts.
UVs accumulated 941,461 units in FY2019 (FY2018: 922,322 / +2.08%), comprising 28 percent of the overall PV volumes which clocked 3,377,436 units. The segment had witnessed an all-time high growth of 21 percent in FY2018 on the back of robust sales of 922,322 units coming over the 761,998 units sold in the year before.
Although the growth might have varied substantially, what has still remained consistent is the sales performance by some of the key UV model offerings by a few prominent OEMs in the country. Let’s take a closer look.
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza remained the well distinguished king of the UV segment, selling a total of 157,880 units (FY2018: 148,462 / +6.34%) in FY2019 and also achieving the landmark milestone of surpassing sales of 400,000 units in February this year, less than three years into its launch in India. While strong competition was felt from the Tata Nexon and Ford’s EcoSport, what helped the compact SUV’s case is the introduction of a facelift along with an AMT transmission option in May 2018.
The popular Hyundai Creta, which is today the go-to SUV for most urban buyers in the lookout for a polished UV with loads of creature comforts, very well secured its No. 2 position in the Top 5 UVs chart with overall volumes being pegged at 124,300 units (FY2018: 107,136 / +16.02%). The Creta too recently conquered a new milestone of going past 500,000 units in sales in the domestic market earlier in February.
Interestingly, the sales gap between the Brezza and the Creta in FY2018 was 41,326 units. In FY2019, the gap has reduced to 33,580. Still a robust lead for the Brezza, but with the Creta holding on to a better growth rate there could a closer battle in the year to come.
At No. 3 the Mahindra Bolero while maintaining its position, faced a slight slump in performance which could be attributed to the tough NBFC situation impacting the rural markets. The Bolero sold 84,144 units (FY2018: 85,368 / -0.14%). Given that the norm of mandatory fitment of ABS in all cars sold in the country has come into effect from April 1, the Bolero now comes with ABS as standard. Moreover, now Mahindra is learned to be working on a major facelift of this rugged UV in order to meet new mandatory crash regulations slated to get implemented by October 2019. The model is expected to be rolled out around the same time.
While the Toyota Innova Crysta sold 77,924 units in FY2019 (FY2018: 74,137 / +5.10%), Maruti’s Ertiga went home to 65,263 buyers (FY2018: 66,141 / -1.32%) to close the tally at the last spot. Interestingly both the MPVs are the top choices in their respective price categories which remain widely distinct. While the Ertiga is a more approachable offering by Maruti in the sub-Rs 10 lakh MPV segment, the Innova caters to a more discerning buyer looking for a robust seven-seater, and also is a huge hit among fleet operators for the same fact. Maruti had brought in the latest second-generation Ertiga in November 2018, and the new car has grown in its appeal by leaps and bounds.
Even though FY2019 was slow for the segment, the demand for UVs remains with buyers and manufacturers alike. Most OEMs are plotting an assault on the market with a slew of new products in the pipeline. While it all starts right today with unveiling of the Hyundai Venue, MG Motor India is next in line which will enter India with the MG Hector SUV in June. Kia Motors and even Citroen have announced India plans, all beginning with an SUV. The action is going to get even hotter.
At the beginning of FY2019, it was felt that the fiscal would cross the million-unit sales mark having hit 922,322 unit sales in FY2018 and posted cracking 20 percent YoY growth. But it was not to be. Will FY2020 be a milestone year for the million-unit UV milestone in India? Watch this space.
News Update: Maruti Suzuki has confirmed that it is to stop manufacturing diesel-engined cars from April 2020, when stringent BS VI norms kick in. While a petrol BS VI-compliant Brezza is in the works, powered by the new 1.5-litre petrol engine from the Ciaz and the Ertiga, will it be able to provide the consistently above 12,000 monthly units the diesel Brezza delivered? The engine will be BS-VI-ready but it could cost significantly more than the existing Brezza diesel that uses a Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine (DDiS 200).
Also read: New Hyundai Venue guns for compact SUV market in India
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