NEW DELHI | MUMBAI: Passenger vehicle sales slumped to their lowest in decades last month, as limited production amid disruptions in supplies, shortage of labour and a weak market on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown hit dispatches from factories.

Industry estimates put wholesale numbers of passenger vehicles at 37,000 in the local market in May, an 85% fall from a year earlier. In April, production as well as dispatches had come to a complete halt due to the nationwide lockdown imposed to check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Retail sales last month fared better than wholesale numbers, claimed several manufacturers, helping align inventory in the channel. Market sentiment though is expected to remain tepid next couple of months, with some recovery expected only around the festive season towards the end of the calendar year.

Automakers in India report wholesale dispatches from factories and not retail sales made to customers.

By the end of May, about half the retail outlets and 80% of workshops had reopened after remaining closed from late March when the lockdown was clamped.

“The response for new sales is very low as of now although fresh bookings have started,” Federation of Automotive Dealers Association president Ashish Kale said. Most of the deliveries happening now are of vehicles booked before the lockdown, while new demand is mostly for cars and small commercial vehicles (SCVs), followed by two-wheelers, he said. “Financiers are more confident in cars and SCV … as they relook credit norms for all segments. There is negligible demand for heavy trucks as of now,” Kale added.

The country’s largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, sold 13,865 units in the domestic market in May. It exported 4,651 units following the resumption of port operations at Mundra and Mumbai and also sold 23 units to alliance partner Toyota.

Maruti Suzuki resumed manufacturing operations post lockdown on May 12 at its Manesar facility and from May 18 in Gurgaon. Production also resumed at Suzuki Motor Gujarat, which manufactures cars on a contract basis for Maruti Suzuki, from May 25.

Rival Hyundai Motor India sold 6,883 units. Including exports, it dispatched 12,583 vehicles in May, sales, marketing & service director Tarun Garg said.

The company said it received 15,000 bookings and delivered 11,000 vehicles to customers last month. Around 850 sales outlets and 1,000 workshops of the company are currently open, it said.

With the lockdown easing across the country, automakers are hoping demand will improve in June.

Veejay Nakra, the chief executive of the automotive division at Mahindra & Mahindra, said: “We are seeing initial traction for our small commercial vehicles and SUV brands, such as the Bolero and Scorpio. As new lockdown norms are being announced, we are hopeful of demand gaining traction in the coming months.”

Mahindra, which said it had 70% of its dealerships now open, sold 3,867 units in May.

At Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), sales in the past month was just 20% of what it would have normally posted, senior vice-president of sales & service Naveen Soni said. The company restarted operations on May 26 and dispatched 1,639 units.

“However, retail sales have been much higher when compared to wholesales, thereby helping the company reduce the month closing inventory levels at dealerships, Soni said, adding that the company had seen a significant surge in customer orders and enquiries online.

New entrant MG Motor India retailed 710 units in the past month. The company expects to restore normalcy in July, director (sales) Rakesh Sidana said.

Meanwhile, tractor sales rose, as the farming sector held high hopes amid the pandemic that has crippled the rest of the economy.

Mahindra registered a 2% increase in tractor sales at 24,017 units in May. Hemant Sikka, president (farm equipment sector) at M&M, said, “The timely relaxation of the lockdown for the agricultural sector helped ensure the speedy recovery of tractor demand during May. In the near term, farmer sentiment is likely to remain positive due to several developments including robust rabi crop production, higher procurement, good price realisations and the forecast of a normal monsoon that bodes well for a good kharif crop.”

Maruti Suzuki7624012325013865-89
Hyundai Motor India26300425026883-84
Mahindra & Mahindra3384206083867-81
Toyota Kirloskar Motor7023121381639-87
MG Motor India*1518710
Mahindra Tractors1341823539240172

Domestic wholesale only


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