Sensex at record high, India Auto Inc in green but struggles for growth

by Sumantra B Barooah & Nilesh Wadhwa 01 Apr 2019

India's headline Sensex touched its record high of 39,028 today on the back of hopes of a rate cut from the country's central bank, helping the industry leverage the situation to access the much-needed liquidity crunch.

What's interesting is that while most automakers’ numbers are in green, it lags far behind the stock market indices. The automotive industry is facing a slew of challenges such as high inventory levels due to a slowdown in retail demand and cooling down of sales in the rural economy, which has been a major driver of the industry. Another challenge that the industry faces is the BS VI emission norms which will kick in from April 1, 2020.

The sales performance of the country's largest carmaker – Maruti Suzuki India – is also an indication of the market situation, especially in the passenger vehicle segment. The OEM reported a marginal drop in its sales last month. For the just-ended financial year, it clocked a 6 percent growth. Industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had earlier made a downward revision of its growth forecast for 2018-19. It seems like the automotive industry will need to devise new strategies to attract customers.

One of the key auto performers on the stock exchange, at the time of filing this report, was Tata Motors' whose shares traded at 5 percent higher than yesterday. One of the factors for it was the announcement by the company's luxury car business Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) that it expected improvement in its financial performance for the quarter ended March 2019.

According to S&P, the BSE Auto index stood at 18,824 today, which is almost 10,000 points lower than its FY'19 peak of 25,833 (in May). This wide gap between the overall stock market and the auto stocks within it reflect the damp sentiments. The industry needs more than new models to brighten up the markets.