In much of rural Punjab, farmers have traditionally resorted to storing diesel in large barrels in their agricultural outhouses to fuel their tubewell pumps, tractors and cars.
The tradition endures to this day, making Punjab one of the biggest diesel car markets for automakers. The state’s fascination for diesel-driven cars has ensured a buoyant market for both new diesel cars and second-hand ones, even as vehicle manufacturers and government regulations increasingly shun this segment. Like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh too is another key market for diesel cars in India.
India’s biggest car market, Delhi, which struggles with pollution most times of the year and is subject to stricter government regulation than other parts of the country, exhibits a clear preference for CNG and petrol-fuelled cars. When it comes to CNG cars, Mumbai and Pune are the other two big contributors to sales. For petrol cars, Bengaluru and Hyderabad are the two biggest buyers. The country’s north-east too favours petrol, attributable to the winding roads and the ease with which smaller petrol-driven cars negotiate these routes.
“Punjab has always been familiar with diesel since they are an agricultural state and diesel is required for pumping sets, tractors etc. That familiarity with the fuel, may be, leads to people in the state preferring diesel over other fuel,” said Tarun Garg, Director (sales) at Hyundai Motor India Ltd. With the introduction of BS-VI norms, an increasing number of carmakers are ditching their entire diesel range. Market leader Maruti Suzuki, the Volkswagen group companies, including Skoda and Audi, as well as the Renault-Nissan partnership, are leaving diesel ranges behind. Hyundai and sister firm Kia India are among those persisting with their oil burner range.
According to Shashank Srivastava, executive director, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, CNG buyers decide on the basis of availability of fuel. “Key reason for people preferring CNG cars in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Pune is mainly due to its availability – these cities have good CNG fuel pump networks,” he said.
When it comes to automatic cars, the two biggest markets are Pune and Chennai, presumably because the younger tech-sector crowd prefers the convenience of automatics while negotiating traffic through narrow roads. Automatics are picking up in Delhi as well. While Maharashtra continues to lead the automobile sales in the country, Kerala has lost its sheen in the past couple of years due to floods, decline in rubber prices and slowdown in the Gulf.
“Kerala used to be in the top two or three markets in the country – today it is not even in the top nine. Kerala volumes have gone down due to floods in the recent years, decline in rubber prices globally reducing Kerala’s income and third and the most important reason was decline in remittances from Gulf since a lot of people lost their jobs. Kerala has been replaced by Maharashtra in the top three, alongside the Delhi-NCR market,” Garg said.