June Car Sales Jump 8.3% in India; Double-Digit Growth Eyed

Car sales should rise by 9% to 11% for the year thanks to expected interest-rate cuts that would reduce vehicle-loan costs and spur demand, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said.

India's car sales jumped by 8.3% in June from a year earlier, an auto-industry body reported Tuesday, adding that it still is hoping for double-digit annual growth despite a flagging economy.

Car sales should rise by 9% to 11% for the year thanks to expected interest-rate cuts that would reduce vehicle-loan costs and spur demand, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said.

"We're hoping car demand will bounce back, possibly around the [religious] festival time" that begins in September when it is considered an auspicious time to buy, SIAM director general Vishnu Mathur told a news conference.

India's market outlook is of vital importance to global automakers from General Motors (IW 1000/13) to Toyota (IW 1000/5), which have been steering to India and China with their billion-plus populations to boost sales and counter sluggish demand in developed nations.

India is the sixth-largest car market globally and is expected to be third behind China and the United States by the end of the decade, consulting firm McKinsey says.

Some 155,763 cars were sold in June in India, up from 143,851 a year earlier, powered by market-leader Maruti Suzuki, according to SIAM.

Price Discounts Help

The June jump was driven by hefty price discounts and a surge in demand for diesel models, whose fuel is heavily subsidized by the government.

SIAM's car-sales forecast for the year to March 2013 is down slightly from its April projection of 10% to 12% annual growth, which the industry body blamed on a sharply slowing economy.

SIAM said its new annual forecast is "reasonable" -- even though car sales climbed by just 5.2% in the financial quarter that ended in June, well-below the projected annual growth.

"We're optimistic as interest rates are stable and we hope they'll come down," SIAM president S. Sandilya said, adding the government is under "tremendous pressure" to bolster the economy.

SIAM also said heavy price discounting and the rollout of new models will support its annual forecast.

'Not Very Bullish'

The 9% to 11% percent sales projection is still far higher than last year's performance, when sales growth slowed to 2.2% as the sector was hit by aggressive rate hikes to control inflation and manufacturing supply problems.

While Western carmakers would envy the Indian car sector's projected sales, they were disappointing for India, SIAM added.

"This forecast would be an occasion to break out the champagne in Europe -- but plus-20% annual growth is the norm for India in good times," Mathur told AFP.

"Considering the huge potential of India's market, this projection is not very bullish at all," he said, noting that just 10 or 11 people per 1,000 in India own cars compared with more than 500 per 1,000 in the United States.

While hundreds of millions still live in abject poverty in India, previous years of breakneck economic growth have minted millions of new middle-class families who have been trading up to cars from two-wheelers.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012   

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