Consumer-focused automakers, such as Maruti Suzuki and Hero MotoCorp, fared better than commercial vehicle makers, going by auto sales trends in December 2020.
Maruti Suzuki, which accounts for around half the cars sold in India, was among the best performers, with a 20% jump in sales compared to December last year.
The company sold 1.60 lakh vehicles, including 9,939 units exported to other countries.
This is materially higher than the 1.53 lakh vehicles sold in November, and almost equal to the number of vehicles sold in the pre-festive month of September.
The record for the highest monthly sales this year was set in October, when the company sold 1.84 lakh vehicles.
Morever, unlike in the immediate aftermath of the lifting of the lock-down, growth was not heavily tilted towards entry-level models.
Instead, there was a healthy movement back to mid-range models, including sports utility vehicles.
While the mini segment, comprising the S-Presso and Alto, did report a 4.4% jump over last year, strong growth was seen in the bread-and-butter ‘compact’ and UV segments.
The compact segment — comprising slightly bigger hatchbacks and smaller sedans like Swift, (new) WagonR, Dzire and Baleno, reported a robust increase of 18.2%. Utility Vehicle sales were also up 8% on year.
Things were less rosy for competitor Mahindra & Mahindra, though some of it was owing to the fact that M&M gets a large part of its revenue from the sales of commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses.
Even as the utility vehicle (passenger) division posted a modest 5% increase in sales, possibly entirely due to sales of new Thar, overall numbers were dragged down by the commercial vehicle division, which continued to bleed.
The key 3.5-ton-and-higher category continued to face the full brunt of the slowdown in economic activity due to COVID-19. Sales in this segment fell 36% to 541 from an already lackluster December 2019 tally of 839.
Only the mid-segment — where carrying capacities vary from 2 to 3.5 tons — was resilient, and here, the company sold 11,400 units compared to 11,668 in December last year.
“Our overall sales have been affected due to the continuing supply chain challenges related to the constantly changing global environment, more specifically the supply shortage of micro-processors (semiconductors) used in Electronic Control Unit (ECUs). Demand continues to remain strong even after the festive season and as we get into the new year,” said Veejay Nakra, Chief Executive Officer, Automotive Division, M&M.
Interestingly, the rural market continued to remain strong, as reflected in continued buoyancy in tractor sales.
Continuing the trend seen in the last four months, tractor sales were up 23% in the domestic market at 21,173 units. Even the company’s exports rose strongly to 1,244 from 778 last year.
With this, the company has actually sold 7.4% more tractors in the period April-December 2020 versus the same period of 2019 — perhaps the first automotive business in India to do so.
Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles too saw continued weakness in the sales of medium and heavy duty buses, but truck sales increased, as did sales of Volvo branded buses.
The company sold 2,882 low- and medium-duty trucks with capacities of up to 15 tons in December, compared to 2,757 last year.
It also sold 982 heavy duty trucks this year, compared to 653 in December last year.
Low- and medium-duty truck exports too were on the higher side at 488 vs 291 last year, though exports of heavy duty trucks and buses were lower this time.
Sales of Volvo buses picked up, with nearly 205 units sold in December this year compared to 132 last year.
Hero MotoCorp — the Maruti Suzuki of the bike world — too had a resilient December, with two-wheeler sales up 5% at 4.47 lakh.
The company had a blow-out festival season, riding strong demand from the rural market as well as the unwinding of pent-up demand for two-wheelers.
Many middle- and working-class Indians decided to buy a commuter bike to get over the disruption in public transport owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, benefiting Hero MotoCorp which dominates the commuter bike segment.
The company sold 18.45 lakh two-wheelers in Oct-Dec, making it the best performing third quarter in the company’s history.