Lockdown in several states and districts, which led to shutdown of showrooms and annual maintenance shutdown of plants by several companies, saw auto manufacturers post a double-digit decline in May compared to the same month in 2019, as well as preceding months this year. A comparison with May 2019 will not give the right picture as there was a nationwide, total lockdown a year ago, so sales were very skeletal. For perspective, the country’s largest passenger car manufacturer, which posted a sales of 33,771 vehicles in May in the domestic market had sold just 13,865 units a year ago. In normal times, Maruti sells around 1,30,000-1,50,000 vehicles. In the rarest of rare case does its monthly volumes is below 1,00,000 units. Manufacturers said that the road ahead would purely depend on the Covid scenario and the gradual opening up of showrooms. The month of May saw a 16-day shutdown (May 1-16) at Maruti’s plants, further around 80% of its showrooms across the country are currently closed because of local lockdowns.
Similar is the case with the country’s second-largest passenger car manufacturer, Hyundai Motor India (HMIL), which saw its sales decline by 41% compared to the year-ago period. The company’s showrooms are currently open in only around 4-5 big towns/cities in the country against the usual 20 towns/cities. During May, Hyundai’s plant in Chennai was also closed for around 10 days – five days for annual maintenance shutdown and another five due to workers agitation for closure – because of rising cases of Covid in Tamil Nadu. In the case of Tata Motors, domestic wholesale numbers declined 39% to 24,552 units compared to May 2019.
Commercial vehicle manufacturer, Ashok Leyland also witnessed a decline of 79% in sales at 2,738 units during the same period. Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M), which sold 15,512 units during the month, registered a decline of 25% compared to May 2019. Veejay Nakra, chief executive officer (automotive division), M&M, said the company foresees a strong demand rebound with Covid-19 infection cases coming down. “We are seeing a strong growth momentum for our entire product portfolio. We are working closely with our supplier partners to manage supply chain issues and meet the market demand.” However, what is surprising is that the pressure was felt in the tractor sales in May for the first time since last year.
With agriculture and allied industries getting covered under essential services, there were some tractor sales reported by the company in May of last year as well. While May 2020 was a low base month, M&M recorded a decline of 5% over that with 22,843 units sold. Hemant Sikka, president (farm equipment sector), M&M, said, “In May, Covid spread in rural markets led to stringent lockdowns, leading to deferment of tractor purchase and limited operations at dealerships.” However, Sikka observed that the situation is improving. “There is a sharp improvement in farmer sentiments and green shoots of recovery are visible, especially since the last week, as farmers start preparing their land for upcoming Kharif crop season.
A bumper Rabi harvest, record procurement, food prices holding up, gradual opening up of Mandis and expectations of a normal monsoon will pave the way for growth in the upcoming season,” he said. Toyota Kirloskar Motor sold 707 units in May, a 94% decline compared to May 2019. Before Karnataka announced a statewide lockdown in May, Toyota had announced its annual maintenance shutdown at its plant in Bidadi, starting April 26, which went on till May 14 and added to the number of non-production days. Highlighting the challenges due to sporadic lockdowns and that numbers for May 2021 and 2020 are not comparable, Naveen Soni, senior vice-president, TKM, said the overall market situation as well as consumer sentiments is better than May 2020.
“We have registered a 104% growth in cumulative wholesales clocked from January to May in 2021, when compared to the same period last year. We also anticipate that factors like ‘pent up demand’ and the demand for personal mobility will continue to be quite significant once the markets open,” Soni said. Two-wheeler sales also remained sluggish. Bajaj Auto registered a decline of 79% in wholesale despatches to 60,830 units compared to May 2019. Hero Motors saw a decline of 74% during the same period. The company also halted operations at all of its manufacturing facilities across the country on April 22. Three of its plants – in Gurgaon, Haridwar and Dharuhera – resumed single-shift operations on May 17, followed by the other three located in Neemrana, Halol and Chittoor on May 24.
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