India's Largest Auto Company Sees Sales Jump 40% in October

Indian market is expected to grow 18%-20%

India's leading carmakers posted record sales in October as a strong economy brought consumers flooding into showrooms to buy new models ahead of the religious festival season.

The country's largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki India, said sales jumped almost 40% from a year earlier to hit a monthly record of 118,908 units in October. Maruti is majority-owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. and sells around one out of every two cars in India. It racked up its previous highest sales tally of 108,006 units in September.

The figures came two days after Maruti reported a 5% jump in quarterly net profit as India's fast-expanding economy pumped sales of new models.

The high sales came as India readied for the religious holiday period that peaks this month with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, seen as an auspicious time to make new big-ticket purchases such as cars.

"I don't see why the car market should not continue to grow" as "income levels are increasing in urban as well as rural areas," Maruti's CFO Ajay Seth said.

The country's second-largest carmaker Hyundai Motor India, a unit of South Korea's Hyundai, also reported its best ever domestic monthly sales of 34,725 units in October, a jump of 22.7% over same month last year.

"The market has been on an upswing for the last few months," Hyundai marketing and sales director Arvind Saxena said.

India's largest domestic automaker Tata Motors -- part of the steel-to-tea Tata Group -- reported a 22.32% increase in its passenger vehicle sales to 24,478 units.

The strong figures recently prompted the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the leading industry body, to boost its forecast car sales growth this fiscal year to March 2011 to 18% to 20% from an earlier forecast of 13% to 15%.

India remains a highly under-penetrated market with about eight cars per 1,000 people compared with around 850 vehicles per 1,000 people in the United States.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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