Navratri: While car sales zoom, 2-wheelers trudge along

Car deliveries during the nine-day period saw sharp year-on-year (double-digit increase for most automobile companies.

The first leg of the festive period, which ended with Vijayadashami on Sunday, left a trail of contrarian tales: even as cars zoomed past their sales goalposts, two-wheelers trudged along the rocky road.

Car deliveries during the nine-day period saw sharp year-on-year (YoY) double-digit increase for most automobile companies, said executives at carmakers and dealerships.

In sharp contrast, the mood at two-wheeler firms and dealerships was sombre.

The cumulative retail sales of two-wheelers are estimated to have plunged 10 per cent YoY, said dealers.

They attributed the lacklustre sales to shuttered schools, colleges, and other commercial establishments accounting for a big share in urban markets.

The current trend is set to widen the gap further between two-wheeler wholesales and retail sales.

Overall despatches at two-wheeler firms rose 11.36 per cent in September over last year, while retail sales skidded 12.62 per cent in the same period.

With a major part of the festive season being dismal, many dealers could find themselves saddled with excess inventory at the end of it.

“The pent-up demand seems to have dried up,” said a dealer.

Passenger vehicle (PV) sales have been very impressive.

“Contrary to expectations, two-wheeler sales are not looking upbeat and may end the festive season at levels lower than last year’s,” said Vinkesh Gulati, president, Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations of India.

However, the festival has brought cheer to car companies.

Amid the gloom and doom of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mercedes-Benz India has delivered 550 cars during Navratra and Dussehra.

“Such an impressive number of deliveries underscores the trust and confidence that luxury carbuyers have in our brand and line-up,” said Martin Schwenk, managing director and chief executive officer, Mercedes-Benz India.

It comes amid market conditions throwing up multiple spanner in the works, he added.

Sanjay Thakker, chairman and founder of Landmark Group – one of the largest chains of car dealerships in the country – said if his dealerships had more cars, they would have delivered more.

“The demand was more than what we could deliver for most brands we represent,” said Thakker.

Landmark retails cars from Honda Cars India, Volkswagen India, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., Mercedes-Benz India, Nissan India, and Renault India.

Nobody expected to touch last year’s sales numbers, he said, citing the zero sales month of April and supply-related challenges in the subsequent months.

“What one is seeing is beyond normal,” he added.

Tarun Garg, director-sales and marketing at Hyundai Motor India, is also ecstatic.

Hyundai retailed 36,000 cars during the festival – 25 per cent more than what it did last year.

“The strong sales momentum one saw in the run-up to the festive season continued. We expect it to be extended,” said Garg, adding that an attractive finance offer, coupled with a new line-up of cars, helped.

Car market leader Maruti Suzuki India delivered around 85,000-90,000 cars, against 60,000-65,000 it delivered last year, said an industry source.

A spokesperson at Honda Cars India said the company’s deliveries saw YoY increase of 10 per cent.

Riding high on the Kwid and Triber, Renault’s Navratri sales jumped 12 per cent to 4,281, against 3,821 units last year, said the company’s spokesperson.

Meanwhile, both two- and three-wheeler companies remain sceptical about the sustenance of the current demand trend beyond December.

India’s growth story has never seemed so endangered.

It is, therefore, not surprising that two-wheelers are still sputtering.

Two-wheeler makers were able to ramp up and deliver in record time.

That has started for PV makers only now.

They, too, will run out of steam soon, warned an industry expert.

Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

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