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Leaders fall the most in auto Inc’s worst dip in 2 decades

H1 PV sales estimated to have fallen over 25% , CV sales 20% and 2-wheelers by over 15%.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 10, 2019, 08.29 AM IST
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The Indian passenger vehicle market is estimated to have declined over 25%, the commercial vehicle market 20% and two wheelers over 15%.
MUMBAI: The Indian automotive market is heading to its worst halfyearly decline in a couple of a decades and the steep decline in sales by industry leaders is pulling down the market. These market leaders have shouldered the burden of the slowdown, which they hope is bottoming out.

The Indian passenger vehicle market is estimated to have declined over 25%, the commercial vehicle market 20% and two wheelers over 15%. This may pull down the entire automotive market for FY20 into the lower double digits.

Maruti Suzuki, Hero MotoCorp and Tata Motors, the respective leaders of their segments, are the ones posting the steepest decline in top five vehicle makers in their respective category. Maruti Suzuki’s sales slid more than 25%, Hero MotoCorp’s contracted 15% and Tata Motors’ volumes slipped by a quarter.

What has added to the pain is a prolonged nature of the current slowdown, which no one saw coming. “Commercial vehicle sales mirror the economic growth of the country. Various structural changes like changes in the axle loading norms and freight rates going down have affected CV consumption,” said Rajan Wadhera, president - automotive of Mahindra & Mahindra, who is also the current SIAM president.

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The last 2-3 years have seen a raft of regulations in emissions and safety along with increasing commodity prices boosting passenger vehicle prices by 15-20%. Factors such as the non-availability of finance, increasing registration and insurance costs have also raised the cost of acquiring a car.

If the rising congestion, increased adoption of shared mobility and rising cost of ownership impacted the passenger vehicle market, the rural slowdown has added to the misery of the price-sensitive two wheelers segment, which has already seen a rise of 15% in acquisition price. And as for commercial vehicles, it has been a triple whammy of axle load norms, efficiency improvement in GST and slowing consumption.

With core sectors shrinking, there is no positive sentiment to spend. Consequently, the sentiment against buying a car is very strong, says Wadhera.

However, the head of Mahindra’s automotive business said car makers are seeing better retail pick up in September and October due to heavy discounts and festive sentiment. Companies are already seeing an inventory correction owing to the retail pick-up, said Wadhera, who feels that wholesale will continue to see a decline due to BS-IV to BS-VI transitioning and as inventories get controlled. The two wheeler industry is still under severe stress, led by high channel inventory, financing constraints, and weak consumer sentiment. Hero Moto Corp saw a 17% drop in sales. Experts say, Hero has not been able to correct inventories.

However all is not bleak for some players. Inventory correction and focus on exports helped Bajaj Auto, which saw sales fall by a relatively modest 5.7%, the lowest in the auto industry.

Commercial vehicles sales have been steeper than passenger vehicles. This is worrying, but a revival will happen from the fourth quarter when pre-buying kicks in, said Mahantesh Sabarad, head, retail research, SBI cap Securities.

Some bold government announcements as well as a slew of festive season offers have auto majors hoping to turn the bend over the next couple of months. That some new launches such as the Seltos as well as MG Hector have resonated well with customers, has sparked hopes.

RC Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki, said the passenger vehicle industry is heading towards the bottom of a downward cycle and sales are unlikely to decline further starting with the festive season. And if the market leader Maruti feels so, can the others be far behind in echoing this optimism?
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