Utility vehicle sales buck slowdown trend due to high discounts, launches

New launches and deep discounts indeed sway Indians to buy a car. 

Bucking the continuing dismal trend of declining consumer interest, data published by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) showed that utility vehicles (UVs) have recorded growth of 5.49 per cent in September 2019, selling 81,625 units as compared to 77,380 units sold in the same month last year. This was the segment that witnessed maximum discounts from carmakers, including on popular models like the Maruti Vitara Brezza and the Hyundai Creta.

However, negative sales continued with sales falling by 22.41 per cent in September, the tenth month on the trot, as uncertainty over goods and services tax cut, which ultimately did not happen, kept customers away from car showrooms.

The sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment of the passenger vehicle industry has become one of the key contributors to the sales volume of carmakers. A number of companies are now getting at least one-fourth of their domestic sales from UVs. For players like Toyota Kirloskar and Ford, the contribution of UVs to overall sales is well over 60 per cent.

The largest carmaker in the country had unleashed aggressive discounts for its UVs, too. For its Nexa models, Maruti announced a gallery of offers. Except for the recently-launched XL6, there are a variety of schemes in the form of exchange offers, corporate offers, and 
free extended-warranty.

“The biggest factor to buy a car is positive sentiment. Since the sentiment has been negative, we are trying to create a positive sentiment and stimulate the market through offers and discounts. I think this is the best time to buy a car,” Shashank Srivastava, executive director (marketing and sales), Maruti Suzuki, said.

Rise in sales was also helped by launches like the Hyundai Venue, MG Hector, Kia Seltos and Tata Harrier. Some of the new models were so popular that they significantly impacted market share of companies. The Venue helped Korean carmaker Hyundai beat the slowdown. 
Amid one of the worst and most prolonged car sales slowdowns, Hyundai’s share in the competitive passenger vehicle market share 
has grown by 2.6 per cent from 15.94 per cent in H1 2018 to 18.49 per cent in H1 2019.

Majority of the improvement in sales was mainly due to the launch of the Grand i10 NIOS and the Venue in the Indian market. The Hyundai Venue is a compact-SUV offering from the brand, which went on sale in May. The Hyundai Grand i10 NIOS is a mid-level hatchback introduced in August.

Similarly, for MG Motors, the newly-launched Hector has outsold every other mid-size SUV last month. The demand for the SUV has been very strong, with the carmaker having to temporarily suspend bookings for the Hector in July in order to align production. MG Motor sold 1,508 units of the Hector in July, 2,018 units in August, and 2,608 units in September, which amounts to a total of 6,134 units sold over the three months.

Even Maruti marketed its newest entry-level car S-Presso as a SUV. “There is a clear trend of customers shifting to SUV. Hence, we tried to give a SUV like feeling in the S-Presso,” C V Raman, senior executive director (engineering), Maruti Suzuki India, said.

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