February a mixed bag for auto companies
Mar 1 February, which is generally a lean month for car manufacturers as prospective buyers tend to postpone their purchase in anticipation of excise duty cuts in the Budget, saw market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) register flat sales in the domestic market at 59,311 units as compared to 59,095 units in February last year. Two-wheelers continued their year-long trend of decline in sales with major Companies witnessing a single digit negative growth. Analysts however, predict that sales will revive with a reduction in excise duty, both on smaller cars and two-wheelers, from 16% to 12% and simultaneous reduction in prices by various manufacturers with effect from March 1. While leading car manufacturers like MSIL, Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Tata Motors and General Motors reduced prices between Rs 7,000 and Rs 20,000 depending on the models, two-wheeler major Hero Honda, TVS Motor and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Ltd have also announced reduction in prices by Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500. During February 2008, General Motor India witnessed a growth of 80% at 5,563 units as against 3,087 units during the same period last year. Sales of premium car manufacturer Honda Siel Cars India (HSCI) also grew 7.2% to 3,774 units during this period as compared to 3,521 units in February last year. Even Skoda India witnessed a growth of 102% at 1,303 units as against 644 units in February 2007. This is in contrast to the two-wheeler industry that has once again failed to recover from the woes of high interest rate and liquidity crunch. Sales of Hero Honda declined 5.37% to 2,65,431 units in February 2008 as compared to 2,80,515 units during the same month last year and that of Bajaj Auto dipped by 8.4% to 1,59,508 units as against 1,74,220 units in February 2007. The entry-level 100 cc segment has been badly hit after high delinquency forced major banks to withdraw finance availability in certain clusters across the country. According to industry estimates, the segment witnessed a decline of about 13%, which had offset stable sales in the 125 cc segment and above, resulting in an overall dip of 10% in the motorcycle industry. No wonder, players are now shifting focus to executive and premium bikes as the segment is comparatively less price sensitive and is giving higher margins to all manufacturers.