India Vehicle Sales Slump More than 10%

Buyers are postponing purchases in hopes of excise duty cuts unveiled last month.

Driven mainly by falling motorcycle sales, Indian vehicle sales slumped more than 10% in February from a year, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). The sector has been hit by high interest rates, but auto experts blamed the latest downturn on buyers postponing purchases in hopes of excise duty cuts unveiled in India's new budget in late February.

Domestic passenger car sales grew by just 2.3% to 94,756 units in February from the same month a year earlier -- down from a scorching 46% year on year growth in February 2007. Sales of commercial vehicles edged up by 1.69% to 45,059 units last month from a year earlier.

But motorcycle sales plunged by 17.7% to 425,089 units. The dismal motorcycle sales performance reduced total domestic vehicle sales in February by 10.3% to 742,027 units from the same month the previous year.

India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki, majority owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor, logged a 2.2% rise in sales to 51,762 units in February from the same month in 2007. But sales of rival Hyundai Motors of Korea fell 5.5% to 14,591 in February, while sales of Tata Motors slid by 16% to 13,451 units. General Motors India, however, recorded a near three-fold jump in sales to 3,691 units, with its "Spark" hatchback drawing strong demand.

In February, sales of motorcycle market leader Hero Honda Motors fell by 7.5% to 247,735 units, while rival Bajaj Auto slid by 26.5% to 107,768 units. Sales of TVS Motor fell by 44.1% to 35,410 units.

Total two-wheeler sales in February tumbled by 14.3% to 542,578 units. However, Siam president Ravi Kant has said a proposed cut in excise duties to 14% -- from 16% -- on small cars, two wheelers and commercial vehicles announced in the budget should boost the sector.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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