Lockdown crushes Motown: Sales of top auto makers decline 64% in March

Topics Auto sales | Coronavirus | Lockdown

Maruti, which sells one in every two cars in India, said it sold 83,792 units in March, down 47 percent from a year earlier
A nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus has brought an already struggling auto industry to its knees. The country’s automobile sales are down by an average 64 per cent as all manufacturing plants have been shut since the lockdown announced on March 24.

The March auto sales numbers, a measure of the country’s economic health, are a pointer that a series of measures would be required to restart the economic engine post the pandemic, according to analysts.

Maruti, which sells one in every two cars in India, said it had sold 83,792 in March, down 47 per cent from a year earlier. But the company said the number was not comparable with 2019 due to the suspension of operations from March 22.

Export sales were down 55 per cent to 4,712 units from 10,463 in the year-ago period. In the domestic market, light commercial vehicles suffered a blow of 71.5 per cent to decline to 736 units in March compared to 2,582 units a year ago.

Maruti Suzuki remains committed to the safety and well-being of its employees, business partners and customers. The company will continue to support the government at the Centre and state levels and follow all advisories in combating Covid-19,” the company said.

“Vehicle sales were impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent nationwide lockdown,” said Mayank Pareek, president, passenger vehicles unit at Tata Motors. The company said its passenger vehicle sales for March fell 68 per cent, while sales of commercial vehicles, including trucks and buses, slumped 87 per cent.


Tata Motors said in future it would report sales numbers once a quarter instead of monthly to “avoid needless short-term volatility” and help investors “focus on the long-term drivers of the business”. 

Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) reported a 88 per cent year-on-year fall in its passenger vehicle (PV) sales for March amid the lockdown. The company’s passenger vehicle sales stood at 3,384 units in March, down 88 per cent year on year. The drop was primarily driven by its utility vehicle portfolio, which accounted for sales of 3,111 units last month  against 25,801 units a year ago.

M&M also posted a 90 per cent decline in its commercial vehicle (CV) sales, which stood at 2,325 units in March as against 24,423 units during the year-ago period.

“Our performance in March has been muted on account of the impact of the current lockdown related to Covid19 and the disruption in our BSVI ramp-up plan," Veejay Ram Nakra, chief executive officer, automotive division, M&M said.

Talking about the production schedule of its BSVI vehicles that were hit due to the supply constraints from China in February, Nakra said, “It was planned between February and March but was affected due to the challenges of parts supply from global and local suppliers. We have been able to clear our BSIV inventory, but for fewer than 100 vehicles. However, there are many vehicles that are sold, but not yet registered because of the closure of RTOs."

In the utility vehicle (UVs) category, which contributes nearly 100 per cent of its total PV sales, M&M sold 10,675 units last month compared with 24,349 units in the corresponding period last year.

“The ramp-down of BS-IV vehicle production has been in line with our plan for February. However, because of the unforeseeable challenges on the parts supply from China, our BSVI ramp-up has been affected. This has resulted in a high de-growth in our billing volume for February and our dealer inventory is, now, under 10 days," Nakra added.

MG Motors, which sells the popular Hector, said the sales were actually showing some improvement in March before the lockdown was announced. ‘’The lockdown resulted in the shutdown of our manufacturing plant,” president and managing director Rajeev Chaba said.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel