For the domestic passenger vehicle industry, which not long ago was touted as the fastest growing in the world, it is an unprecedented and unwanted run. With another steep double digit decline in sales in June this year, sale of cars, SUVs, MUVs and vans in India have now declined for eight straight months in a run that stretches as far back as October last year. Worse, sales have now declined in 11 of the last 12 months.
Market leader Maruti Suzuki that accounts for one of every two passenger vehicles sold in the country posted a 17.2 per cent dip in its tally in June at 111,014 units. The decline at 19.1 per cent was the steepest in its ubiquitous small car segment that includes bestsellers like the Alto, Wagon R, Swift, Dzire, Baleno and Celerio.
The next in line in the business, Hyundai also saw a 7.3 per cent fall in sales at 42,007 units even though it has two brand new mass-market models - new Santro launched in October 2018 and the Venue compact SUV launched in May this year. The new launches are clearly not helping but Hyundai is not alone. Tata Motors also saw a 27 per cent dip in sales even though it had launched its new midsized SUV Harrier only in January. Similarly, Toyota, which launched a re-badged Suzuki Baleno as the Glanza last month under its collaboration with the market leader, suffered a 19 per cent decline in sales.
"The Industry has been witnessing a continuous decline in domestic sales owing to several factors that have contributed to the weak consumer sentiment. The prevailing economic uncertainty, uncertainty on monsoons, high interest costs, tight liquidity and the underlying apprehensions surrounding BS VI introduction in few months have steered the slowdown," said N. Raja, Deputy Managing Director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor.
The only outlier in the industry was Mahindra and Mahindra, which registered a 4 per cent growth in its passenger vehicle sales and an 8 per cent growth in utility vehicles, which forms a subset of its PV portfolio.
"The market sentiment continued to remain subdued, especially in the passenger vehicles segment. At Mahindra, we are happy to register a growth of 4 per cent in the segment and 8 per cent in the utility vehicles segment on the back of our three recent product launches," said Veejay Ram Nakra, Chief of Sales and Marketing, Automotive Division, M&M Ltd. Since October last year, Mahindra has launched three new products.
The slowdown that has shown no signs of abating has now forced the industry to hope for some succour from the union budget that will be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman this Friday. Automobiles remain one of the highest taxed commodities in India with GST falling in the range of 28-47 per cent. The industry has been lobbying for a reduction.
"The auto industry is going through its worst slowdown with continuous decline for many months," said Rajesh Goel, Senior Vice President and Director, Sales and Marketing, Honda Cars India Ltd. "Going forward, any initiative that can jumpstart the demand will definitely be a positive for the industry."
Honda posted a staggering 41.4 per cent slump in sales in the month.
It is not passenger vehicles alone that is reeling under this slowdown. Sale of motorcycles, scooters, heavy trucks, buses and tractors have also suffered. TVS reported an 8 per cent decline in sale of its motorcycles and scooters during the month. Tata Motor's commercial vehicles division registered a 7 per cent decline in June. Tata was lucky as others fared worse. Ashok Leyland saw its sales go down by 19 per cent, Mahindra suffered a 15 per cent dip while Volvo Eicher posted a 28.5 per cent slump in sales.
"Both M&HCV and the SCV segment has been hit by poor consumer sentiment, falling freight rates and difficulty of funding from NBFCs with a respective decline of 19 per cent and 10 per cent. In M&HCVs, the usually afloat tipper segment has also weakened due to slowdown in infrastructure projects," said Girish Wagh, President, Commercial Vehicles Business Unit, Tata Motors Ltd.
June this year with a 33 per cent deficiency in rainfall was one of the driest ever in recorded history in India and the impact of this was felt in sale of tractors as well. Mahindra, which is the largest tractor manufacturer in the country registered a 19 percent decline while Escorts saw an 11.4 per cent dip.
"Tractor demand remained sluggish in June. We hope that the onset of monsoon and the upcoming Union Budget allocations to the rural and agri sectors will drive positive sentiment in the coming months," said Rajesh Jejurikar, President - Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.
Hope is an omnipresent sentiment in the industry right now.