Longstanding UV market leader Maruti Vitara Brezza, which lost its No. 1 position to the Hyundai Creta in June after a 23-month run in the domestic market, has wrested back its throne. The two high-selling SUVs have been fighting a pitched battle for long. Both the Creta and Brezza have very recently received midlife updates. While the Creta received a host of styling tweaks and feature upgrades including a sunroof and an electronically adjustable driver’s seat, the Brezza got a boost in its safety equipment as well as the option of an AMT with its 1.3-litre diesel engine.
The Maruti Vitara Brezza, which sold a total of 14,181 units in July 2018, has been one of the growth drivers for the company’s UV market share, which today stands at 28.75 percent. The Brezza has contributed 51,341 units to Maruti's cumulative UV sales of 90,259 units, clocked between April and July 2018. This constitutes 56.88 percent of the company's UV sales, clearly indicating how important the Brezza is to Maruti. In May 2018, the facelifted avatar of the model rolled out, bringing in some aesthetic tweaks, as well as giving it the option of an AMT and making safety kit as standard onboard.
Last month's Brezza sales are down seven percent on July 2017's sales of 15,243 units but that could be attributed to the huge demand led by GST-driven benefits after the reformative tax kicked in last July. Nonetheless, the SUV remains a popular buy because it is practical, spacious, well equipped and reasonably good to drive. Like Autocar India says, "Not revolutionary in any way but ticks all the boxes that matter."
Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor India is ensuring its dealers are well stocked with the Creta , which saw despatches of 10,423 units in July 2018. The updated Creta has received tweaks outside and a few more features inside. The Korean SUV's strengths are its styling, user-friendly cabin and equipment levels. It is, in essence, a very likeable urban SUV which is why month after month the Creta continues to sell over 10,000 units.
Like the Brezza, the Creta is of immense importance to Hyundai's UV fortunes in India, even more so. With sales of 41,928 units in the April-July 2018 period, the Creta accounts for an overwhelming 98.43 percent, the Tucson being the only other SUV sibling.
Like Maruti, and also in May 2018, Hyundai gave the Creta a mid-life update, bringing a host of external styling tweaks such as a new grille, revised bumpers, headlamps, tail-lamps, alloy wheels and a sunroof too. On the inside, the Creta now offers an electronically adjustable driver’s seat, along with getting a wireless smartphone charging pad. The Creta has helped Hyundai increase its UV market share, which currently stands at 13.57 for the April-July 2018 period, up from 12.62 percent a year ago.
The Toyota Innova Crysta, which retains the No. 3 position of last July, went home to 6,638 buyers (July 2017: 9,369). Demand for the popular MPV remains consistent, what with the new model being a huge improvement over the earlier model. More attractive and upmarket, it is also more comfortable, better built and more lavishly equipped. But it is also costlier but that doesn't seem to have impacted demand in the domestic market. Easily the MPV benchmark in India, it is soon to get a new rival in the upcoming Mahindra Marazzo slated for a September 3 launch.
Coming in at the No. 4 spot, the Mahindra Bolero improves one rank over last July (6,597) with sales of 6,559 units this July. What has contributed to the Bolero’s handsome numbers has been the onset of a good monsoon across the country, which has energised demand from rural and suburban towns.
The big surprise in July 2018 sales is the debut of the Maruti S-Cross in the Top 5 UV list. Launched in July 2015, the crossover completes two years in the Indian market and has averaged monthly sales of 3,775 units since then. In July 2018, the S-Cross has clocked its best-ever monthly sales of 5,308 units, which helps it debut in the Top 5 UV list. Its previous best was in May 2018 when it sold 4,610 units.
Things are looking up for the S-Cross. Not receiving as good a market response as Maruti Suzuki would have originally liked, the crossover has seen a strong revival in demand in the last financial year. Maruti sold 30,923 units of the S-Cross in FY2018, representing a solid 44.39 percent growth in sales over FY2017. In FY2016, the S-Cross found 24,077 buyers, albeit the model was only on sale for nine months during that fiscal.
What has worked for the S-Cross in the past year is that Maruti introduced the S-Cross facelift last October and that’s one part of the growth story. The refreshed crossover brought with it a slightly more muscular look which helped the crossover’s appeal in a market where the SUV body style is considered most desirable. Plus smart hybrid technology (SHVS) in the new model which has improved fuel efficiency.
The other factor that has apparently helped the S-Cross’ sales turnaround is the expansion of Maruti Suzuki’s premium Nexa showroom network that retails the crossover. According to Autocar India, Maruti insiders say that taking the Nexa network to Tier 2 towns has helped widen the market for the S-Cross, and taken the product to areas where there is demand for the car. Over the past year, Maruti Suzuki has added 64 Nexa outlets, taking the total count to 316 outlets in 178 cities. All in all, Maruti will be happy that another of its models is the best-seller charts.
UV industry growth outlook
July 2018's UV sales, which are a growth driver for PV sales, saw a 9 percent year on year (79,092 units). However, Rajan Wadhera, vice-president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers Association and president – Automotive Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, dismisses the slow growth of last month. "I think it is a blip because July had a number of events like a transporters strike, floods in parts of India and agitations including some in Maharashtra. I think it is a blip and not a trend."
He added, "I think the next 3-4 months, which will see the festive season, will add to growth. In terms of the overall scenario, I do not see any big negative factors or headwinds coming. My estimate is that the UV market will have a growth rate of about 10 percent. The few growth derailers that we see are commodity prices and also oil prices, which have now started coming down but can go up. But I think the positive factors are stronger then the derailers. Consequently, the auto industry should see positive growth by end of the year."
Given that SUVs and compact models continue to be sales trendsetters the world over, expect the UV segment to be among the newsmakers this fiscal and beyond. With a clutch of new UV models to be launched in the remaining 8 months of FY2019 – Mahindra Marazzo, new Honda CR-V, new Maruti Ertiga, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Compass Trailhawk, new Mahindra Rexton and the Tata Harrier – this segment bids fair to be even more exciting. Stay tuned for more action.
Also read: Top 10 Passenger Vehicles in July 2018
Video: M&M's Rajan Wadhera on developing the new Mahindra Marazzo
Top 10 Two-Wheelers in July 2018