On a slippery road: Car sales decline in December despite hefty discounts

By: | Updated: January 2, 2019 7:22 AM

Royal Enfield reported a 13% year-on-year decline in wholesale volumes in December.

Analysts believe that the weak sentiment apart, inventory levels remain higher than normal and also customers resist from buying older models preferring to wait for the 2019 manufacturing tag.

Despite being offered fairly hefty discounts of between 20% and 25%, higher than in previous years, customers were not enthused to buy cars in December. Wholesale volumes during the month stayed by and large flat possibly because discounts notwithstanding, car prices remained high thanks to higher insurance premium.

The growth for the country’s top five car makers was only 2% year-on-year. Maruti Suzuki chairman RC Bhargava had earlier pointed out the festive season was a dull one.

Post the September quarter results, Bhargava observed company expects market uncertainties to worsen in the second half. “The increase in international prices of crude and its consequent impact on India has been quite significant. The increase in third party premiums have also pushed up prices and impacted affordability,” the Maruti chairman had noted.

Several of Maruti’s models — Alto, WagonR and Swift — failed to attract buyers’ attention in December. Rajan Wadhera, president, automotive sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, observed that the tight liquidity and weak sentiment had resulted in poor growth in December. M&M reported a 3% year-on-year decline in volumes during the month.

While passenger vehicles in the April-June quarter had clocked a 20% year-on-year growth, the trend has reversed since then.
During July-September, volumes fell by around 3% year-on-year, primarily due to the base effect. In the second quarter of FY18, volumes had shot up post the roll out of GST as companies re-stocked. While wholesale volumes increase in October as dealers stocked up on inventories, the festive season was probably the worst in five years, analysts observed.

Analysts believe that the weak sentiment apart, inventory levels remain higher than normal and also customers resist from buying older models preferring to wait for the 2019 manufacturing tag.

The M&M management has cited several factors — unfavourable macroeconomic factors, the base effect, a delayed festive season, high fuel prices and regulatory changes — for the poor demand.

Royal Enfield reported a 13% year-on-year decline in wholesale volumes in December.

While the commercial vehicles (CVS) segment has been faring well, the trend appears to be reversing. After around seven months of growth, commercial vehicle volumes at Tata Motors fell for the second consecutive month in December with the management attributing this to liquidity tightening, higher interest rates and rising fuel costs. Tata Motors posted a 27% year-on-year decline in M&HCV segment and 5% year-on-year dip in light vehicles.

Girish Wagh, president, CVs, said sentiment remained slightly subdued as the customer was still waiting to see a sustained level of improvement in the factors like fuel prices and profitability. Analysts at Nomura had observed, post the release of the November wholesale data that while the tipper segment continued to do well on healthy construction demand, cargo sales had been impacted due to weaker consumer sentiment, higher capacity on increased axle loads and reduced small-freight operator profitability.M&M reported a 31% year-on-year decline in heavy vehicle segment and 9% fall in LCVs.

Analysts at Jefferies India on heavy commercial vehicle said, “recent weakness implies Q3 could be below trend, which does not augur well based on history.”

“We expect CV wholesales to decline 10-12% year-on-year, primarily led by the M&HCV segment,” analysts at Motilal Oswal Securities said.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Switch to Hindi Edition