New launches driving auto market; passenger vehicle sales up 9.5% in February

The auto market is clawing its way back to normalcy after going for a toss during the government's much-ambitious demonetisation drive. Passenger vehicle sales grew by 9.5 per cent in February and according to initial industry estimates, top nine carmakers sold around 2,56,342 units compared to 2,34,154 units dispatched in the year-ago period.

The market was primarily driven by new launches, especially in the sports utility vehicle segment, which kept automakers busy last month.

Maruti Suzuki, the country's largest carmaker, continued its strong run in February with 11.5 per cent growth in domestic sales, at 120,599 units. Although smaller car sales, namely, Alto and WagonR, declined by 6.8 per cent to 33,079 units last month, sales of mid-compact cars (Swift, Ignis, Celerio, Baleno and DZire) increased 9.4 per cent to 47,002 units. Ciaz also continued its strong sales with a 14 per cent jump to 5,886 units last month. Its utility vehicle sales doubled to 17,863 units, led by a strong demand for the Vitara Brezza compact SUV.

Similar gains were posted by Korean carmaker Hyundai with a high demand for Creta, its compact SUV. Its sales volumes were up by 4 per cent to 42,327 units and the company sold 9,002 Creta, one-fifth of its domestic sales volumes during the month.

Commenting on the boom, Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice-president (sales and marketing), Hyundai Motor India Ltd, said, "The Union Budget has positively impacted customers' disposable income and overall business sentiment. Footfalls and conversions at showrooms have improved, resulting in better sales last month."

Toyota's numbers also went up by 12 per cent to 11,543 units on the back of Fortuner and Innova. N Raja, senior vice-president (sales and marketing) of Toyota Kirloskar Motor, said, "The recovery in the market is led by new launches, especially in the utility vehicle segment. We sold the highest-ever numbers of the Fortuner SUV in February, even as the Innova Crysta enjoys a waiting of 4-6 weeks for customer deliveries."

French carmaker Renault's volumes grew by 27 per cent to 11,198 units, leveraging the success of Kwid. Over 85 per cent of the company's sales came from this small car, of which around 9,600 units were sold in February.

Tata Motors, too, stayed on the revival path as new models, Tiago and Hexa, triggered a 12 per cent rise in sales to 12,272 units.

Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL), which had struggled to increase sales volumes over the past year, benefited from the upswing in consumer sentiment and the newly launched Honda City. It posted a 9.4 per cent gain in monthly volumes at 14,249 units in February.

"The market has shown positive sentiment during February and HCIL has also benefited from it. This month's sales growth has been driven by an excellent response to the New Honda City 2017, which has recorded over 10,000 bookings so far," said Yoichiro Ueno, president and chief executive officer of HCIL.

But in spite of the upswing, utility vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra's (M&M) volumes slipped by 13 per cent to 20,605 units last month. Pravin Shah, president and chief executive (automotive), M&M, said, "The auto industry is seeing some positive trends emerging over the past two months. We also hope that the impending implementation of GST will provide a veritable boost to the auto industry and the economy in general."

American carmaker Ford's volumes in the domestic market went up by 52 per cent to 8,338 units last month.