The festive season failed to bring cheers to major car makers in India as sales remained more or less flat in October, with market leader Maruti Suzuki India witnessing its biggest ever fall in over 10 years due to labour strike at its Manesar plant.
The auto industry, which is going through a phase of sluggish demand this fiscal due to rising interest rates and high fuel prices, was looking with optimism at the festive season but it proved to be vain.
The country's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) and Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) witnessed 52.16 per cent and 4.95 per cent fall in their sales, respectively. Tata Motors' sales rose marginally by 2.64 per cent in October.
MSI saw sales of 51,458 units in the domestic market last month, a 52.16 per cent fall from 1,07,555 units in the year-ago period.
The last time MSI witnessed such a steep fall was when it suffered a 3-month labour strike at its Gurgaon plant from November 2000-January 2001.
"The labour unrest at company's Manesar plant during October 2011 adversely impacted the production and sales numbers. The company lost production of over 40,000 units (Gurgaon and Manesar) in the month," the company said.
The Manesar facility rolls out MSI's high volume compact car Swift, which currently has undelivered booking orders for about one lakh units. The plant also produces hatchback A-Star and sedan SX4.
The simultaneous strike at Suzuki Powertrain, which makes engines and transmissions, in support of MSI's Manesar plant's workers, affected production at the Gurgaon facility also.
However, other car makers also did not perform well during the month of various festivals.
Sales of HMIL fell by 4.95 per cent to 33,001 units from 34,720 units in the same month last year.
"We have seen that sales get a boost in the festival season, but this year, sentiment has been tepid. We don't expect a major upswing in the near future, the challenging economic environment is affecting industry," HMIL Director (Marketing and Sales) Arvind Saxena said.
The company's latest small car Eon has got more than 9,000 bookings till date, he added.
Car maker Ford India's domestic sales declined by 10.36 per cent to 8,091 units in October from 9,026 units in the same month last year.
Homegrown auto major Tata Motors' total passenger vehicles sales in the domestic market stood at 25,124 units in October, up 2.64 per cent only from 24,478 units in the same month last year.
Utility vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra's total sales of passenger vehicles, including Scorpio, XUV500, Xylo, Bolero and Verito, stood at 18,756 units against 16,987 units in October 2010, up 10.41 per cent.
General Motors India reported a marginal increase in its sales at 10,062 units compared to 10,051 units in the same month last year.
Commenting on the market, GM India Vice President P Balendran said: "The market continues to remain sluggish due to unprecedented hikes in interest rates, fuel prices, commodity prices, growing inflation and negative market sentiments. These factors are putting a lot of pressure on the automobile market."
Another car maker Honda Siel Cars India reported 4.76 per cent jump in its sales for October at 5,526 units compared to 5,275 units in the corresponding month last year.
However, Toyota Kirloskar Motor reported a robust 63.01 per cent increase in sales to 10,762 units compared to 6,602 units in the corresponding month last year.
"The production in October has been low due to the festive holidays. However, we have registered a growth in sales last month. The Etios continues to drive the sales growth," Toyota Kirloskar Motor Deputy Managing Director (Marketing) Sandeep Singh said.
Volkswagen's sales jumped by 67.30 per cent to 7,266 units in October from 4,343 units in the same month last year.
The two-wheeler makers also did not perform well in the festive season as was expected due to lesser purchase of such vehicles through financing options.
Market leader Hero MotoCorp reported a mere 1.32 per cent jump in its October sales at 5,12,238 units. It had sold 5,05,553 units in the corresponding month last year.
Another two-wheeler maker Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India's sales went up by 19.69 per cent to 1,78,181 units from 1,48,861 units in the year-ago period.
India Yamaha Motor saw its sales growing by 26.82 per cent increase in October to 47,240 units from 37,251 units in the same month last year
"The festive season has played a vital role in catapulting sales for Yamaha this month. We are confident that the momentum will sustain in the long run and help us in redefining our sales graph," India Yamaha Motor Director (Sales and Marketing) Jun Nakata said.