Car manufacturers witness flat domestic sales due to Kerala floods

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The fast-growing domestic car manufacturing industry witnessed a flat performance in the month of August, impacted by floods in Kerala and heavy rainfall in several other states. Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, the top two manufacturers, reported a year-on-year decline of 3.6 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively, in domestic sales. Only two companies — Tata Motors and Toyota — managed to buck the trend with double-digit growth.

Based on the numbers sold by top seven players, the passenger vehicle (cars, utility vehicles and vans) industry’s domestic volume of 269,036 units in August was marginally lower compared to the year-ago period. Honda also reported a decline, of 2 per cent, in sales. M&M and Ford remained in the positive territory, though their growth rate was in low single digit.

Maruti Suzuki, which sells every second car in the country, dispatched 145,895 units to dealerships last month, a decline of over 3 per cent compared to last August. Barring its mid-size sedan segment (under which Ciaz is sold), all other segments showed either a decline or just marginal growth. “Sales during the month were adversely affected due to severe floods in Kerala and heavy rain in other parts of the country,” the company said.

Korean carmaker Hyundai saw a 2.8 per cent drop in domestic sales to 45,801 units. Sports utility vehicle major M&M, the third largest player in the domestic market, saw a 2 per cent growth rate in dispatches. Rajan Wadhera, president (automotive sector) at M&M, said the auto industry remained subdued in August due to some external factors. He hoped the upcoming festive season would improve demand.

Homegrown player Tata Motors posted the highest growth among peers. It dispatched 18,420 units last month, growing 28 per cent YoY. Mayank Pareek, president (passenger vehicles business unit) at Tata Motors, said consumer sentiment was muted due to heavy rain across the country and floods in Kerala. “Despite a challenging month, we have recorded 28 per cent growth. The demand for our new generation vehicles has helped us maintain this consistent month-on-month growth,” he added.

Toyota, the Japanese carmaker, reported growth of about 17 per cent in August by selling 14,100 vehicles in the domestic market. “Despite the impact of the floods, we have been able to overcome the challenge with support of dealers across other regions. Kerala is a very important market for us and we will work hard to get this market back to normalcy,” said N Raja, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor.

Toyota’s Japanese peer Honda reported a 2 per cent drop to 17,020 units last month. The company said it was expecting a strong recovery in demand with the festive season approaching. Ford said it sold 8,042 units last month, with a growth rate of about 3 per cent YoY.

The flat performance of the industry will slow down the 13 per cent growth rate seen in the April-July period of FY19, in the April-August period. But with a pickup in festive sales beginning with the Ganesh Chaturthi on September 13 and extending to Diwali in November, the industry is confident of recovering most of the sales loss.   

Shamsher Dewan, vice president & sector head (corporate ratings) at ICRA, said, "The sales data in the passenger vehicle segment indicates some softness, possibly emanating from adverse impact of heavy rain in many parts of the country and floods in Kerala."

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