Demand for diesel vehicles pushed up sales of the country's leading auto makers in July amid concerns that the sagging economic growth and high fuel prices and interest rates will continue to pose challenges to auto sales in Asia's third largest economy.
Nine of the industry's 19 leading automobile manufacturers together grew volumes by 11.8 per cent to 182,822 units in July, compared to 163,572 units sold in the year-ago period. Sales in the passenger vehicle industry grew 9.7 per cent in June this year.
The country's largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which is under severe pressure after a lock-out at its Manesar unit, recorded a growth of 6.8 per cent in domestic sales at 71,024 units last month. The growth has come on a low base as labour woes at the unit had disrupted production even last year. The increase in volume, however, lags the growth of 20 per cent the car maker had posted in June this year.
While sales of small cars M800, Alto, WagonR, A-Star - available only in petrol - declined 24 per cent to 28,998 units, segments which offer diesel variants revved up volumes for the company. Sales of premium hatchback models (Swift, Estilo, Ritz) went up 73 per cent to 15,759 units, while off-take of sedan DZire nearly trebled to 11,413 units.
The company has declared an indefinite lock-out at its Manesar unit on July 21, following a violent scuffle between workers and the management which resulted in the death of a senior executive and left injured around 100 officials.
The price difference between petrol and diesel stand as high as Rs 30 per litre, which has made many consumers opt for diesel-powered vehicles over the last few months. Companies that have a strong line-up of diesel vehicles such as Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M) benefited from the trend in July.
While sales went up by a whopping 53 per cent to 26,240 units at Tata Motors, volumes grew 27 per cent to 22,011 units at M&M.
Hyundai Motor India's sales grew 7.6 per cent to 27,585 units last month, though sales volumes declined sequentially over June.
Ford India, General Motors India and Honda Siel Cars India reflected the subdued consumer sentiments with sales declining for all three companies in the domestic market. For Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd, sales increased moderately by seven per cent to 14,574 units.
In the two-wheeler segment, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India reported 56.90 per cent growth in total sales for July at 239,094 units against 152,382 units in July 2011.
Suzuki Motorcycle India witnessed 48.76 per cent increase in sales in last month at 40,295 units, compared with 27,088 units a year ago.