Sales of passenger vehicles fell for the eleventh month in a row in September, signalling that the festive season hasn’t provided any respite to the auto sector, which continues to reel under a slowdown that has lasted more than a year.
Sales of passenger vehicles—which include cars, utility vehicles, and vans—fell 23.7%, according to data released by industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on Friday. Passenger cars—the largest segment by volume—suffered a 33.4% drop to 131,281 units from 197,124 units a year ago.
The slowdown in the auto sector is said to be caused by suppressed market sentiment and factors like the transition from Bharat Stage (BS) IV to BS VI emission standards, fuel price volatility, liquidity crunch, and a rise in insurance costs.
In its second-quarter review, SIAM said that the segment was largely impacted by the slowing economy, floods in key markets like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala, and a drop in rural demand.
“New launches helped UV (utility vehicle) to report less negative growth. Vans sales were impacted on availability and affordability of finance,” SIAM said in its report.
In September, the country’s largest automaker Maruti Suzuki India reported a 24.8% year-on-year drop in sales to 115,452 units. Tata Motors Group reported its global wholesale sales (including Jaguar Land Rover) at 89,912 units, lower by 27% as compared to September 2018.
Sales of two-wheelers—the second-largest segment by volumes—declined 22.1% to 1,656,774 units. However, it proved to be a relatively better month for three-wheelers whose sales fell only 3.92%.
The commercial vehicles segment suffered the most this September—sales fell 39% to 58,419 units from 95,870 a year ago.
Tata Motors, India’s largest commercial vehicle maker, reported a drop of 45.4% in sales. Girish Wagh, president, commercial vehicles business unit, Tata Motors, said, “With the ongoing subdued demand, we continued our focus on system stock correction by driving retail and aligning production. Retail sales are estimated to be ahead of wholesale by over 16% in September and over 27% in Q2, reducing the overall stock level to the lowest for the last six quarters.” He added that the company is monitoring the impact of the relief package announced by the government, and looks forward to improved demand from revival in consumption and spending in infrastructure projects.
According to SIAM, certain factors that could revive demand include a scrappage policy that is under consideration, deferring the hike in registration fees until June 2020, lifting of the ban on purchase of new vehicles for replacing old vehicles for government departments, etc.
In September, total sales fell 22.41% to 2,004,932 units. Total production, too, fell 18.29%. But exports were the only segment to show marginal recovery. The month’s total exports grew 0.68% year-on-year.
SIAM provides the wholesales data or the sales numbers from manufacturers to dealers. Experts say that retail sales, or vehicle registration data, is a better way to track sales and demand. According to the government’s VAHAN Dashboard & SIAM Analysis, total retail sales grew 6.48% to 1,732,617 from 1,627,138 last year in September. Sales of passenger vehicles grew 7.98% and that of two-wheelers grew 6.50% in September. Commercial vehicles were the only segment to buck the trend with sales falling 9.15%.
SIAM said that certain growth enablers could be the government’s focus on reviving the economy, advance buying of BS IV vehicles, road projects and infrastructure, and above-normal monsoon after six years. Challenges, according to the industry body, could be lack of GST benefits on internal combustion engine vehicles, low consumer sentiments in the short term, inventory liquidation, availability and affordability of finance, and fuel price volatility.