While 2019 closed on a rather muted note for carmakers, who are generally able to lure customers on the basis of heavy discounting strategies, 2020 opened with a tepid January delivering a 6.20 percent year-on-year sales decline for the passenger vehicle segment which topped off at 262,714 units.
While players such as Maruti Suzuki, Renault India and Kia Motors India were in the black with reasonable sales, the majority of the market is still down in the dumps due to weak consumer sentiment, lack of liquidity in the economy and buyers in the personal space preferring to hold back purchases for just a few more months to get the latest product once BS VI actually kicks in.
India Auto Inc did pin high hopes from the Union Budget (FY2021) announced on February 1, particularly the announcement of a vehicle scrappage policy but there were no direct benefits to the mobility sector. However, let’s have a look at some of the top performing models in January which helped their manufacturers remain afloat in such challenging times.
At No. 1, the Maruti Dzire sold 22,406 units (January 2018: 19,073 / +17.47%) to start off the calendar year with a homerun and contribute significantly to Maruti Suzuki’s overall sales of 139,844 units in the month, which were flat compared to last year.
What aided Maruti’s cause was the performance of its premium hatchback Maruti Baleno which fired from the No. 2 position and went home to 20,485 buyers (16,717 / +22.53%). The Baleno, which also retails as the Toyota Glanza from Toyota Kirloskar Motor, is luring customers with its design, features, and value-for-money price tag.
The Maruti Swift stood firm at the No. 3 spot to register sales of 19,981 units and remain flat (18,795 / +0.06%). The trio of Dzire, Baleno and the Swift tripped their own cheaper sibling Alto to the No. 4 position, clearly indicating the shifting dynamics in the entry-level Indian passenger vehicle segment. The Maruti Alto lost three spots from last year and went home to 18,914 buyers (23,360 / -19.03%).
At the No. 5 position, the Maruti Wagon R recorded a noticeable growth, gaining four positions and selling a cumulative 15,232 units in the month (10,048 / +51.59%). Both the Alto and Wagon R are available in petrol as well as a bi-fuel CNG variant in select cities.
If there was any example of novelty being successful, then there’s no better one than Kia Motors India’s runaway success in the Indian market. The Kia Seltos at No. 6 position sold 15,000 units in the month, and is the one to be credited to keep the segment alive in times of a dismal downturn. Month-on-month, Kia is inching up the sales ladder with January beating its last best of 14,005 units in November.
While the Maruti Eeco van made its entry into the list at the No. 7 spot and sold 12,324 units, its bigger cousin Maruti Vitara Brezza lost three places from last year to land at No. 8. While this is not its peak performance, the Brezza still sold 10,134 units (13,172 / -23.06%). With the biggest roadblock for the once India’s top-selling UV being its diesel powertrain which is slated to be discontinued in the BS VI regime, Maruti Suzuki showcased a petrol-only avatar of the Brezza at the Auto Expo 2020, and the car is slated to be launched in the coming months. It would be interesting to see how it fares against the Hyundai Venue, Ford EcoSport and the soon-to-be-launched Kia Sonet.
Hyundai Motor India’s Grand i10 with 8,774 units (10,285 / -14.69%) and the Elite i20 with 8,137 units (11,749 / -30.74%) held the penultimate and last positions, respectively in the tally. While the Grand i10 is expected to see the Grand i10 Nios completely take over once BS VI norms kick-in, the i20 is also due for a generational change and is expected to be launched this year.
With 40 days to go for the total transition to BS VI, carmakers are in the process of updating their products with the latest hardware to curtail emissions. As some of them also align this opportunity to bring new models and completely refresh their existing line-up, will the customer finally get excited to spend on new motoring metal? We’ll know soon.