While the passenger vehicle (PV) segment had its worst-ever monthly sales in eight years in April 2019, there were some standout performances. The Maruti Suzuki Eeco - launched in January 2010 and updated recently with more safety kit - has clocked its best-ever monthly sales in April 2019 with 10,254 units sold. Its previous best was in March 2019 (9,893 unit). By the end of Aprtil 2019, the Maruti has sold a total of 5,74,160 units of the Eeco, having crossed the 5 lakh unit milestone in October 2018.
A couple of UV offerings, including the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and the Hyundai Creta, have brought some respite to a despondent industry, which is hurting from weak buyer sentiment and low industrial production caused by worrisome factors in the Indian economy. While low liquidity in the rural market as well shortage of working capital with dealers still remains a major issue, there is an impact of shared mobility on new vehicle sales in urban clusters, which is slowing down new car purchases and lowering the ownership of multiple vehicles in a single household.
The impact of the slowdown is clearly visible in sales of the top-selling PVs in the country as well, where the Top 10 vehicles totaled 1,38,294 units in April 2019, against 1,61,299 units sold in April 2018 – a notable 14 percent dip. Let’s track how these best-sellers fared in the competitive market environment:
Leading from the front as always, the Maruti Alto maintains its lead at the top of the charts with sales of 22,766 units, up 7 percent from April 2018’s 21,233 units. The Alto recently got a mid-life makeover that brought added safety equipment, a mild redesign to meet crash test norms and a tweaked BS6 version on the 796cc petrol engine.
At No. 2, the Maruti Dzire drops one position and registers a significant 29 percent drop in sales with the popular compact sedan going home to 18,544 buyers (April 2018: 25,935). Of note is that the car which usually commands waiting periods is available at fair discounts due to poor demand in the PV marketplace.
Third place is taken up by Maruti’s premium hatchback, the Baleno, which garnered sales of 17,355 units and declined 15 percent while marginally improving upon its ranking by one position (April 2018: 20,412).
The Maruti Swift, on the other hand, drops two positions to No. 4 with sales of 15,776 units. Sales of the For Figo and Hyundai Grand i10 rival reduced by 30 percent compared to the 22,776 units sold in April last year.
Other than the Alto and Eeco, the Vitara Brezza was the only other model to post a sales growth. Sales volumes grew 8.9 percent to 11,785 units (April 2018: 10,818). For now, the Brezza gets a sole 1.3 diesel motor that will be phased out in the coming months. While the company’s decision of phasing out all diesels from April 2020 will mean that the 1.5 DDiS diesel motor may not be offered with the compact SUV, Maruti is working on introducing a petrol motor in the Brezza soon.
At No. 6 is the Maruti Wagon R sold 11,306 units, albeit with a 31 percent decrease in volumes (April 2018: 16,561). The car rivals Hyundai’s Santro, Tata’s Tiago and its own cousin Celerio in its segment. The current-generation Wagon R gets dual airbags, ABS with EBD and reverse parking sensors as part of standard safety fitment across trims. The Wagon R also comes with a petrol-CNG bi-fuel option.
Hyundai’s Creta jumps three positions to land the No. 7 spot in April, with the popular SUV finding place in 10,487 homes. The Creta recorded positive growth of 11.6 percent over sales in last April, which stood at 9,390 units.
At No. 8, the Korean brand’s premium hatchback, the Hyundai Elite i20, didn’t perform up to expectations with sales figures dropping by 16 percent to close at 10,411 units (April 2018: 12,369).
The Maruti Eeco came as a sweet surprise with sales pushing past 10,254 units. The practical and value-for-money van takes ninth place in the bestsellers list. The van is still hugely popular in commercial applications such as ferrying school kids.
The fairly low performance of some of the most popular car brands is an indicator that the Indian automotive sector is witnessing a very challenging phase, with dealer inventories becoming unfavourable and discounts being the regular trend over the last six to eight months in a row. While the industry is hopeful of recovery in Q2 FY2020 (July-September 2019) once some stability has been regained in the country’s political environment, the situation on the ground continues to remain grim for a little while longer.