car makers in India is estimated at around Rs 6,500 crore, as per RoC records and analyst data.
The loss-making foreign carmakers first focused on the domestic market where they found it difficult to match the scales of entrenched incumbents like Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor.
Rekhi added that the big difference had been the focus on exports from the start of setting up the alliance plant. “We decided to look at India as an export base. Very few companies, only some like Hyundai, were doing it at the time. We started off with 90% export production, and are now down to 55-60% exports. As we bring in new products, this will evolve more towards production for the local market,” Rekhi said.
Though Nissan’s India arm opened for business in 2005 with cars imported from Japan and Thailand, its business really gathered steam from 2010 when the group plant started operations with its first volume model, the Micra hatch. Renault also started solo operations the same year after exiting a joint venture with India’s utility vehicle major Mahindra to make the Logan compact sedan and launching its own product, the Fluence sedan.
Renault has since seen success with the Duster mini SUV, which is today selling about 5,000 units a month and at peak sold over 6,000 a month before seeing competition from the Ford EcoSport. Meanwhile, Nissan, which has also tasted some success with the Sunny entry sedan, and the recently launched Duster-based ‘Terrano’ mini SUV, is now gearing up to launch the ‘Datsun’ sub-brand with the ‘Go’ hatch next year. Developed for emerging markets like India, Russia and Indonesia, Datsun will be priced lower and target larger volumes.
Between April and October this year, Renault’s domestic volumes in India are up 81% at 36,342 units, though Nissan’s domestic sales are down 26% at 17,400 units. A large part of the group’s exports from India – models like Nissan Micra (sold as March) and Renault Duster (sold as Dacia Duster) – go to Europe.