Auto stocks decline as March sales plunge amid coronavirus lockdown

Maruti said it had sold 83,792 in March, down 47 per cent from a year earlier
Shares of automobile companies declined as much as 7 per cent on the NSE on Friday as the March sales numbers disappointed, largely due to the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

According to this Business Standard report, 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.

Among individual stocks, Ashok Leyland declined 6.93 per cent while TVS Motor slipped 6.5 per cent to a fresh 52-week low of Rs 261. Motherson Sumi and Hero MotoCorp dipped in the range of 5-6 per cent. Tata Motors, Bosch Limited, Bajaj Auto, and Bharat Forge were down in the range of 4-5 per cent. Maruti Suzuki India and Eicher Motors also declined over 2 per cent each. On the other hand, Mahindra & Mahindra surged 6 per cent to Rs 289 on the NSE.

At the index level, the Nifty Auto index was down 1.4 per cent as compared to 1.3 per cent decline in the Nifty50 index at 10:40 AM.

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.

Tata Motors 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”.

Moreover, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Tata Motors to more vulnerable to non-payment grade 'B' citing weaker-than-expected credit metrics owing to the disruptions and economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic. The ratings agency which had earlier rated Tata Motors B+ has, however, kept the outlook on the company stable.

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. 

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.

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