The Indian automotive sector, which has seen over a year of tepid and declining sales, finally may be seeing some sort of a recovery – driven by marginally improved consumer sentiment, heavy discounting on vehicles by manufacturers, ushering in of the festive season and a feel-good corporate tax cut by the finance minister.
Nonetheless, it's early days yet and it will take some time for the industry to be out of the woods. From the initial sales numbers released by carmakers for last month, September looks to be better than the not-so-august August, and October bids fair to be better than both, what with Navratri, Dassera and Diwali packed into the same month.
PV sales still down YoY but are up month-on-month
A quick analysis of seven PV manufacturers reveals that their cumulative sales for September are nearly 13 percent better than the numbers in August 2019, albeit 26 percent down on year-ago sales.
Maruti Suzuki India, the bellwether of the passenger vehicle industry, reported total domestic PV sales of 1,10,454 units, down 27.1 percent on year-ago sales (September 2018: 1,51,512). However, this is better than the July (98,274) and August (93,173) numbers when sales had fallen below the 1,00,000-unit mark. The company will be looking to the just-launched S-Presso to add some fizz to its entry level car sales, given that its overall passenger car numbers are down 31.5 percent on year-ago sales. UV sales were better in September (21,526) over August (18,522), although they point to a 0.5 percent YoY decline.
Hyundai Motor India announced sale of 40,705 PVs in September, down 14.8 percent (September 2018: 47,781) but better than August's 38,205 units. The Chennai-based Korean carmaker is currently riding high on pent-up demand for its Venue compact SUV.
Mahindra & Mahindra, which announced a joint venture with Ford Motor Co, reported total PV sales of 14,333 units, down 33 percent (September 2018: 21,411), but better than August's 13,504 units. Commenting on the numbers, Veejay Ram Nakra, chief of sales and marketing, automotive division, M&M said, “We are positive that this festive season, with the onset of Navratri, will augur well for us and the automotive industry. This, in addition to factors such as the good monsoon and the recently announced positive government initiatives should help revive the industry in the short term.”
Meanwhile, Toyota Kirloskar Motor has reported sales of a total of 10,203 units in the domestic market in September 2019, down 18.45 percent year on year (September 2018: 12,512 units) and slightly down on August's 10,701 units.
Commenting on the sales performance, N Raja, deputy MD, Toyota Kirloskar Motor said, “The consumer sentiment continued to be subdued in September, which has reflected in the sales slowdown in the industry. Thanks to the Navratri and Diwali festive sparkle around, we expect the consumer demand will see the much-needed revival resulting in better retails. To further add to the festive fervour, we have launched the enhanced version of the Yaris and the Celebratory Edition of Fortuner TRD. Customers are appreciating the new products that come with more style and distinctive looks. With the Navratri beginning, customer orders have been slightly encouraging. We hope the pace continues and the sluggishness in sales withers away in the festive season. The industry expects improvement in customer demand in the month of October.”
Tata Motors, in comparison to other manufacturers, saw a larger YoY drop in September with sales of 8,097 units, down 56 percent YoY. But like the other automakers, the September numbers are an improvement over August 7,390 units. According to Mayank Pareek, president, passenger vehicles business unit, Tata Motors, “Towards the end of the month, there was an encouraging response in terms of customer footfalls. The customers have responded well to our festive offers as reflected in 11 percent more retail in September 2019 compared with August. However, the industry continued to decline in September.”
"Our focus continued to be on retail in line with our strategy of 'New Paradigm'. In September 2019, our retail was 31 percent more than off-take as a result dealer stock came down by around 10 percent. During H1 of FY2019, network stock has been reduced by 21 percent, the lowest in the last 10 quarters. This helped in rotation of dealer working capital and preparing the network for the upcoming festival season.
With continued focus on the retail capability enhancement, we have added 82 sales outlet and 3,000+ sales executives in the system in this fiscal. Our new launches, Harrier Dark Edition and Nexon Kraz+ received encouraging response. We are hopeful that the upcoming festival season will bring positive momentum in the market and we are prepared to embrace it,” said Pareek.
Meanwhile, MG Motor India said it retailed 2,608 units of the Hector SUV in September 2019. The company had sold 2,018 units in August. The company has re-opened its bookings on September 29, backed by its plans to ramp up production. With increased supplies from its global and local component suppliers, the company is starting second-shift operations from November.
For Volkswagen India, the new Polo and Vento launches have helped provide an uptick to sales. At 2,550 cars sold in September 2019, the carmaker has reported a month-on-month growth of 4 percent (August 2019: 2,306). In line with the Volkswagen Group’s India 2.0 project, Volkswagen plans to increase its current 132 sales touch-points to 150 by end-2019 and is undergoing a mega training and development programme for sales and aftersales teams across the network in India.
While other nine-odd manufacturers have still to reveal their numbers for September, what's amply clear is that there is a slight uptick in demand, albeit not as brisk as the carmaker and their dealers would like it to be. October has begun, bringing with it hope of higher footfalls in automobile showrooms.