Auto makers maintain steady growth in March
Moneylife Digital Team 01 April 2011

Major vehicle manufacturers continue to register double-digit sales, notwithstanding concerns of a slowdown due to higher interest rates and input costs

Major Indian auto makers registered steady, double-digit sales in March, concluding the financial year 2010-11 on an encouraging note, despite expectations of a slowdown in demand.

Maruti Suzuki, the country's largest passenger car maker, today announced robust sales growth of 28%, even better than that in February, whereas Tata Motors sales grew by nearly 11%, about the same rate as in the previous month and Mahindra & Mahindra registered 18% growth, which was a touch slower than in February. The country's largest two-wheeler manufacturer Hero Honda registered its highest ever sales for the month of March for a growth of over 24%, whereas Chennai-based TVS Motor Company grew a notch faster at 28%. Figures for Bajaj Auto, the other big two-wheeler maker, were not available as yet.

Auto companies have registered surprisingly good sales over the past few months, driven by growing demand from a growing middle class and easier access to loans. Experts expect this to moderate sooner than later, on increasing interest rates and higher input costs that could dent growth.

Hyundai Motor, the country's No.2 passenger car maker, seems to be feeling the pressure already, with sales almost stagnant in March. The company reported a marginal rise in total sales for the month at 55,552 units from 55,027 units a year ago. Domestic sales increased by a little over 1% to 31,822 units from 31,501 units. Exports also increased marginally to 23,730 units from 23,526 units. "With rising interest rates and increasing prices due to higher input costs the market is less buoyant than what it was last year," said Arvind Saxena, Hyundai Motor India's director (marketing and sales).

The situation could be compounded for companies who rely on their schedules and supplies from Japan, where last month's devastating earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis that followed has disrupted assembly plants, parts manufacturers and the global supply chain. Understandably, sales in Japan in March are reported to have slumped by more than a third.

Reflecting the buoyancy in auto sales so far, the BSE-Auto index gained 7% through March, against 5% on the Sensex. However, the auto index has lost 9% in the January-March 2011 period compared with the Sensex which declined 5% during the quarter.

Maruti Suzuki announced today that it sold 1.21 lakh units in March, compared to 95,123 units in the month last year. Domestic sales, in fact, were up nearly 39%, that more than made up for a 26% drop in exports. While sales of its basic M800 model continued to stay low, in the A2 segment that comprises such models as Alto, WagonR, Estilo, Swift, A-Star and Ritz sales climbed by over 43% to 78,460 units from 54,762 units a year ago, and in the A3 segment with SX4 and DZiRE models sales increased by 33% to 13,910 units from 10,453 units.

Overall for 2010-11, sales were higher by 24.8% to 12.71 lakh units from 10.18 lakh units in the previous financial year, Maruti Suzuki said. As can be guessed, domestic sales constituted the chunk at 11.32 lakh units, compared to 8.7 lakh units in the year before, a growth of 30%. Exports declined by 6.31% to 1.38 lakh units from 1.47 lakh units in 2009-10.

Tata Motors said today that it sold a total 83,363 units in March, against 75,129 units in the corresponding month last year. In sharp contrast to Maruti, Tatas' domestic passenger vehicle sales registered a marginal fall to 27,678 units from 27,760 units in March last year. However, exports jumped by 44.51% from 4,105 units to 5,932 units, the company stated.

The Indica range sold 6,937 units, down 40%, and the Indigo family sold 7,197 units, 5% lower than in the month a year ago. The Sumo, Safari and Aria models accounted for 4,837 units, a jump of 24%, while sales of its much-touted small car Nano maintained a good tempo at 8,707 units. It sold 8,262 units in February.

The company did well in the commercial vehicles segment, which is its core strength, with a 15% increase in domestic sales at 49,753 units, from 43,264 units in March last year. Light commercial vehicles sales were up by 18% at 26,416 units, while medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales grew by 12% to 23,337 units.

Overall for 2010-11, Tata Motors posted a 25% jump in sales to 8.03 lakh compared to 6.42 lakh units in the previous year. It registered its highest commercial vehicles cumulative sales in the domestic market at 4.46 lakh units, an increase of 20% over the corresponding period in the previous fiscal. Exports were hugely encouraging, with a growth of 70% to 58,044 units from 34,141 units.

Hero Honda said it sold 5.15 lakh units in March, compared to 4.14 lakh units in the month a year ago. The company said that it had crossed the 50-lakh mark for the entire year 2010-11, dispatching cumulative sales of 54.02 lakh units compared to 46 lakh units in the previous year, up a strong 17.44%.
Managing director and CEO Pawan Munjal was naturally delighted. "We are delighted with this year's sales performance, which far surpasses our initial guidance of 5 million. Our growth rate is reflective of our strategic and marketing prowess, which has ensured our sustained market leadership," Mr Munjal said.

TVS Motor Company said it sold 1.91 lakh units in March, against 1.49 lakh units in the corresponding month last year. Domestic sales stood at 1.62 lakh units, up by 28.43% over 1.26 lakh units in the year ago period. Exports of two-wheelers in the month rose by 31% to 26,979 units from 20,585 units.
For the entire 2010-11, sales jumped by 33.17% to 20.46 lakh units from 15.36 lakh units in the previous fiscal. The company's three-wheeler sales also jumped by 82% to 4,427 units from 2,431 units, the company stated.

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