Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL), the country’s leading car manufacturer, on Wednesday announced a 47 per cent fall in its domestic passenger vehicle sales in March, a near 10-year low in terms of unit sales.
The company sold 76,240 units last month; the number from a year ago — March 2019 — was 1,45,031 units. Industry data show that MSIL sold 75,000-80,000 units every month on average in the second half of 2009-10, numbers that are comparable to those of March 2020.
The second largest passenger vehicle manufacturer, Hyundai Motor India, announced a 40.69 per cent decline in sales in March compared to the same period last year. The company sold 26,300 units this March as against 44,350 units last year.
Toyota Kirloskar Motors too announced a 45 per cent decline in sales. The company sold 7,023 units in the domestic market in March as against 12,818 units in March last year.
Car sales have been under pressure over the last 18 months on account of the slowdown in the economy and a decline in consumption. Sales took a sharp additional hit in March due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown that followed.
Industry sources said they expected April to be worse, as the lockdown — currently for 21 days from March 25 — would continue for half of the month. Even after the lockdown is lifted, no one really knows how long it may take things to come back to normal, they said.
Virus the last straw in crisis
The decline in automobile sales started on account of a funding and liquidity squeeze in July-August 2018, and went on to become more of a sentiment issue, with individuals looking to postpone and cut down on consumption expenditure. The coronavirus pandemic was the last straw in the crisis.
“Last month has been very challenging for us, both in terms of sales as well as production. With the spread of the COVID-19 threat in various parts of the country followed by the 21-day national lockdown, the company’s priority was to ensure the safety and well-being of all stakeholders and, most importantly, our dealers and their staff…,” Naveen Soni, Senior VP, sales and service, Toyota Kirloskar Motor said. “Our dealerships across the country were shut down beginning March 23, along with a temporary halt of production at our plant in Bidadi.”
MSIL reported a decline in sales across all segments. The compact segment declined 51 per cent to 40,519 units; the utility vehicle segment saw a 53.4 per cent fall, and sales in the van segment fell 63.7 per cent.
With global trade crippled by the virus, MSIL’s exports declined 55 per cent — the company exported only 4,712 units in March as against 10,463 units in the corresponding month in 2019.
On March 22, as several states announced lockdowns, carmakers including MSIL, Hyundai Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles together with Fiat India Automobiles, and Hero MotoCorp announced they were cutting output. Several firms announced they would stand by their staff — there would be no retrenchments at any plant, and workers would continue to receive salaries for the period of closure.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines