As India Auto Inc experiences a rough patch of weak buyer sentiment, the festive season of 2018 has been a rather disappointing one what with retail sales in the auspicious month of Diwali, in November, falling sharply, much to the chagrin of vehicle manufacturers and leaving dealers with piled-up inventories at their stockyards.
While overall industry sales in November stood at 2,038,015 units, registering marginal 5 percent growth on the back of light commercial vehicles and two-wheelers, the passenger vehicle (PV) segment, on the other hand, saw a setback with people shying away from loosening their purse strings.
PV sales totaled 266,000 units, registering de-growth of 3.43 percent. Within PVs, the much- trending UV sub-segment, which has been accelerating hard in the fast lane, also slowed down with a substantial decline of 10.18 percent and overall sales of 69,884 units (November 2017: 77,807) in the month.
Passenger cars remained almost flat with 179,783 units going home to buyers (November 2017: 181,435) who have been majorly reluctant in putting down their money because of the low sentiment caused by escalating fuel prices over the past few months, coupled with high insurance premiums where it has now been mandated by the Supreme Court for PVs to bundle third-party premiums for the next three years upfront at the time of vehicle purchase.
While industry bellwether, Maruti Suzuki India itself posted near-flat sales of 143,890 units (November 2017: 144,297), registering a marginal 0.3 percent slowdown, it still maintained its reign over the PV segment with the top six of the 10 cars in the bestsellers’ chart coming from its stables. However, Maruti’s result is enough to extrapolate the scenario to the entire industry, which could also be seen following a downward trend and experiencing a hiccup.
The company’s popular compact hatchback, the Maruti Suzuki Swift shines at the top spot, selling 22,191 units in the month and gains five spots with a substantial growth of 66.38 percent (November 2017: 13,337). In its latest second-generation avatar, the Swift is seen wooing buyers with its styling, space, comfort and convenience features on offer. The Swift also went on to achieve a landmark milestone of crossing two million sales in India, 13 years since its launch in May 2005 in the country.
At No. 2, its elder cousin, the Maruti Suzuki Dzire saw 21,037 units being shifted to dealers and maintains its position in the list, albeit slightly declining by 6.4 percent in numbers over last year (November 2017: 22,492).
Based on the same platform as its other two podium finishing siblings, the Maruti Baleno hatchback clinches third spot. The car which plays in the B+ segment and is retailed only through Maruti’s premium Nexa channel, sold 18,649 units and grew 4.95 percent (November 2017: 17,769).
Following behind, the country’s quintessential go-to entry-level hatchback, the Maruti Alto drops three spots to settle at fourth position with sales of 18,643 units, registering a decline of 23 percent. Rising fuel prices and high interest rates leading to a tough financial environment have been the top reasons for the slump in the sales of the country’s largest selling car.
At No. 5, UV champion Maruti Vitara Brezza slides one spot from last year to 14,378 units (November 2017: 14,458). The company had given the Brezza a mild facelift earlier this year in July and it now features safety equipment such as dual-front airbags, ABS and EBD as standard across its range. As a result, the immensely popular crossover came out meritorious in the Global NCAP tests and scored a high 4-star rating.
The quintessential tall-boy, Maruti Wagon R drops a position to sit at the No. 6 spot with sales of 11,311 units (November 2017: 14,038) declining 19.42 percent YoY. The Wagon R is now due for a generational change and Maruti Suzuki will introduce the next-generation car in January 2019.
Breaking into Maruti’s lead, Hyundai Motor India’s Elite i20 secures the No. 7 spot by gaining one position and selling 10,555 units (November 2017: 10,236) in the month. The i20 in its latest iteration with an update at the Auto Expo in February is luring buyers with its host of contemporary features such as LEDs and touch screen infotainment system.
The Hyundai Creta, at the No. 8 spot gains one position with 9,677 units, growing 13.47 percent (November 2017: 8,528). The Creta, which received a facelift in May, has become more exciting with contemporary features such as a sunroof and wireless charging pad for mobile phones. It now is set to face new competition from the all-new Kicks from Nissan.
While Hyundai’s Grand i10 drops two places to the No. 9 spot to sell 9,252 units, declining a notable30 percent (November 2017: 13,249), its youngest sibling, the Hyundai Santro made its way into the list to close the tally by selling 9,009 units. The car which has made a comeback into the Indian market after nearly four years has seen over 30,000 bookings since launch in October, as claimed by the company.
Now, with the calendar year drawing to a close and the market sentiment continuing to remain low, the PV segment could be headed for a weak fiscal year with low single-digit growth by March 2019. However, there is possibility of some recovery as a couple of much-awaited new model launches are in the offing – the Tata Harrier and the Nissan Kicks. Watch this space for more as we track the industry’s progress.
Also read: Top 5 UVs – November 2018 | Brezza maintains stranglehold, Creta stays strong, new Ertiga at No. 3