The country’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL), has bagged 6,000 pre-launch bookings for the new, upgraded Alto 800. This is in sharp contrast to the high demand the company’s premium hatchback, the new Maruti Suzuki Swift, recorded before its launch in August 2011 — a whopping 50,000 units in pre-launch orders.
“The response is pretty good, given the current market conditions. With the ‘shradh’ period ending Sunday, the numbers would pick up,” said a senior MSIL executive. Company sources indicated bookings were expected to rise to 10,000 units before the car’s launch on October 16.
Alto, the best-selling car on Indian roads for eight consecutive years, has seen sales slowing in recent times, owing to waning demand for petrol cars.
Manohar Bhat, vice-president (marketing), MSIL said, “Sales of the Alto have been impacted due to the increasing preference for diesel cars. I am sure after the launch of the new model, sales would not only go back to the original levels, we’ll also gain incremental volumes.”
As petrol is 45 per cent costlier than diesel, an increasing number of consumers opt for diesel vehicles, despite an initial premium of Rs 1-1.5 lakh on diesel models. Latest industry data show between April and July, while sales of diesel vehicles rose 54 per cent, accounting for about 57 per cent of the passenger vehicle market, those of petrol models have declined by a fifth.
The Alto has two engine variants ---800-cc and 1,000-cc K series engines. About two thirds of sales are accounted for by the 800-cc version, which would now to be replaced by the upgraded model. The new Alto 800 delivers a mileage of 22.7 km/litre; it is 15 per cent more fuel economical than the previous model. The new car also has additional 15-mm leg space and 15 mm more headroom.
Maruti Suzuki, along with its vendors, has invested Rs 470 crore on the new car, which is expected to revive the company’s sagging fortunes in the small car segment. According to data available with the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, while sales of cars in the mini segment (length less than 3600 mm and engine displacement up to one litre) have declined 16 per cent to 2,49,344 units in the first six months of this financial year, Maruti Suzuki’s volumes in the category have fallen 21 per cent. The company’s market share in the segment fell by five percentage points to 74 per cent during this period.