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New model launches marginally boost automobile sales in February

Weak sentiments would have hit sales if it were not for new launches

Shally Seth Mohile  |  Mumbai 

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New model launches helped automobile sales in February rise a little over the year-ago period, according to monthly data released by companies on March 1.

Cumulative sales of India’s top passenger vehicle makers — Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata Motors, Honda Cars, — increased to 206,418 units in February over 200,322 units in the same month last year. This is an increase of 3 per cent. Hyundai Motor had not released sales figures till the time of going to press.

Weak sentiments would have hit sales if it were not for new launches. Automobile firms in India count dispatches to dealers as sales.

Dispatches at India remained muted during the month. The car market leader that sells one in every two passenger in the country dispatched 136,912 units — only marginally up over the 136,648 unit it did in the same period last year.

The overall volumes at the local arm of the Japanese carmaker were dragged down by the mini and compact car models.

Cumulative sales of these models — Wagon R, Swift, Baleno, Celerio among others — dropped 1.6 per cent to 97,429 units over the same month last year.

Starting February, Maruti has reclassified the new WagonR under the compact car segment owing to its increased length and bigger engine. It was earlier in the mini car segment.

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A recent research report by Motilal Oswal pointed out that sales trend during the month was mixed, as demand continued to remain weak in west and central India. It was relatively better in the south.

Key markets such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh continued to see a decline in retail. Maruti has average inventory levels of 15-20 days, while it is higher for at an average 25-30 days, the report said.

India’s economic growth slowed to a five-quarter low of 6.6 per cent in the December quarter of this financial year, from 7 per cent a year ago, according to government data released on Thursday. The growth estimate has been lowered to 7 per cent in 2018-19 from 7.2 per cent earlier, said the Central Statistics Office.

Riding on the new launches including the newly launched compact sports utility vehicle, XUV 300, dispatches at saw a year-on-year increase of 16 per cent to 26,109 units.

“February has augured well for Mahindra,” said Rajan Wadhera, president, automotive sector, M&M. Wadhera attributed the strong double-digit growth to XUV300.

Tata Motors, the fourth-largest in the pecking order, also saw sales pick up during the month on back of the Harrier. Dispatches at the Tata group flagship rose 2 per cent to 18,110 units over the same month. S N Barman, vice-president, sales and marketing, passenger vehicle business unit at Tata Motors, said, “It was a challenging month, but the company has managed to report a growth.”

He attributed it to the Harrier, adding that the model has a waiting for three months. Extending the previous month’s trend, sales at Honda India ended the month on a strong note. Dispatches at the maker of City and Amaze models rose 10 per cent to 13,527 units over the same month last year. Rajesh Goel, senior vice-president and director, sales and marketing, Honda India said the strong volume is the result of company’s on-ground efforts and sustained sales momentum for models, specially the Amaze, City and WR-V.

“The overall market sentiment is not overtly buoyant at this stage. However, we hope the market will revive soon,” he said. Honda will launch the all-new Civic next week.

First Published: Sat, March 02 2019. 00:47 IST