Bajaj Auto pips Hero MotoCorp to become No 1 motorcycle maker in November

A structural slowdown facing the world’s largest two-wheeler market has changed equations in the segment, with Bajaj Auto emerging the largest motorcycle maker in November, zipping past market leader Hero MotoCorp.

The Pune-based two- and three-wheeler major sold a total of 337,962 units in November in the domestic and export market, against the 329,185 units sold by Hero MotoCorp, reveals the monthly sales data released by the companies on Wednesday.

Although Hero MotoCorp continues to maintain a clear lead in the domestic market, it’s the first time the Rajiv Bajaj-led automaker has managed to secure pole position in terms of total motorcycle sales. Its arch-rival Hero sold 308,654 motorcycles in the domestic market in November, compared to Bajaj Auto’s 144,953 units.

The only other time Bajaj sold more motorcycles than Hero MotoCorp was during the Covid-19-induced national lockdown in April and May 2020 that had halted production and sales in the domestic market, but exports continued in small measure.

During the month, the country’s largest motorcycle exporter shipped 57 per cent of its total output to markets outside India, helping it offset the 23 per cent decline in the domestic motorcycle market.

On the other hand, an overdependence on the domestic market reeling from a multi-year slowdown led to a sales collapse at Hero MotoCorp in November. Two-wheeler buyers in India have been shying away from purchasing scooters and motorcycles amid rising fuel prices, increasing prices and ownership costs.

Motorcycle and scooter sales at Hero MotoCorp fell 39.2 per cent to 349,393 units in November, against 575,957 units in the same month a year ago.

A weak festival season has led to stockpiling at the company’s sales channels, forcing the company to curtail despatches during the month.

Automotive companies in India count despatches to dealers as sales. On average, Hero has unsold stock of 45-60 days at its channels, according to dealer estimates.

Most of the other two-wheeler makers, including TVS Motor, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), and Royal Enfield, among others, also saw sales skid during the month in the domestic market, even as exports helped them cushion the fall somewhat.

Domestic two-wheeler sales at TVS fell 29 per cent year-on-year to 175,940 units. Domestic sales at HMSI — that draws close to 65 per cent of its sales from scooters — also dropped 38 per cent to 256,170 units, against 412,642 units.

A weak offtake in rural sales has also added to the woes of companies. Sluggish rural sales are attributed to depressed farm sentiments caused by uneven monsoons and delayed harvesting across regions.

In urban markets, a delay in the reopening of schools and colleges, weak income sentiments due to job losses or salary cuts (in the aftermath of the pandemic), and extended work-from-home policies by corporates have been weighing on sales.

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