AUTO SALES: Consumers shift to Maruti’s smaller cars, spurn UVs

Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, reported a sharp decline in the sales of its larger cars and utility vehicles in January, even as sales of small and compact cars remained resilient.

Sales of Ciaz, the mid-segment sedan that costs around Rs 10 lakh, fell by a whopping 71.5% to 835 units in January compared to the same month of last year — one of the worst performances for the car in its history.

Similarly, sales of UVs — including Ertiga, Vitara Brezza and XL6 — fell sharply by about 6,000 units, or 27%, to 16,460 units during the month. For the year so far, they’re down around 7%.

Even Omni and Eeco sales were down 19% at around 12,300 units.

On the other hand, sales of both mini and compact cars were up 11% and 12% respectively.

As a result, the total domestic car sales for Maruti Suzuki was flat at 1.40 lakh versus 1.39 lakh last year.

The trends could mean that customers are ‘trading down’ — preferring cheaper, smaller cars during times of economic uncertainty as India goes through a period of economic slowdown.

Still, the price difference between Maruti Suzuki’s UVs and its compact cars is only around 2.0-2.5 lakh.

The second factor that may have hurt sales of popular utility vehicles — such as Vitara Brezza — may be the launch of new models in the compact segment, particularly in the popular Swift line-up.

The launch of the new and more stylish Ertiga too seemed to have failed to support UV sales.

Exports for January 2020 remained largely flat at 9,624 units.

On an overall basis, Maruti Suzuki’s January numbers indicate a slight recovery from the levels seen in the first half of the current financial year.

Despite flattish numbers in recent months, the company’s India sales for the first 10 months of the current financial year are still down 15% due to the carnage seen in the first half.