Sifting through the sales figures in May, and looking at over 20,000 Swifts and Maruti Altos, and you figure that Maruti is running away with the game in hatchbacks. But the more interesting story is the Honda Brio, which has quietly but quickly, make a significant jump in May sales.
The steep Rs. 7.50 petrol price hike and unfavorable conditions such as rise in inflation and car loan interest rates have pulled down the sales of hatchbacks in India. The most affected were the entry-level hatchbacks. In May 2012, sales of small cars (Santro, Eon) have dropped by 19% while those of premium hatchbacks (i20, Micra) have dropped only 7% overall thanks to the stellar performance of some.
Entry-level small cars
The entry-level small car segment was hit hard because even strong sellers such as Wagon R which usually clocks about 12,000 units on an average, sold less than 8,000 units (7,101 units) in May 2012. Similar trend can be observed in cars such as Hyundai i10 as its sales have steadily declined from about 10,000 units in January to less 7,000 units in May 2012. However, despite the dwindling sales of these strong sellers, the Alto (20,724), Nano (8,507) and Eon (7,346) have managed to sell in slightly more numbers in May 2012 as against April 2012.
But one car that stands out is the Honda Brio at 4,512 units. Honda has slowly stepped up production of the Brio and will further expand it with its new plant in Rajasthan.
Among small cars which are offered in both petrol and diesel engine versions, the Swift continues to remain as the undisputed leader. Maruti Suzuki sold 20,050 units of Swift in May 2012. The new i-Gen i20 also showed no signs of sales fall as in both April and May 2012. The i20 clocked above 7,500 units which were significantly high when compared with the sales during January – March 2012 where it averaged only 5,000 units per month. Sales of Honda Jazz have increased by nearly 49% from 1,300 units in April to 1,948 units in May, as Honda has streamlined production and increased import of kits for the Jazz, catering to pent-up demand. Sales of the Toyota Liva have gone up by 19%.
However, many other popular hatchbacks registered low sales numbers in May 2012. Sales of Indica and Vista (5,467) fell by 20% while that of Figo (4,726) fell by 18% when compared with their respective sales numbers in April 2012. Sales of the Tata Indica averaged at around 10,000 units in the first three months of 2012, but in April and May, it came down to less than 7,000 units.
Cars losing ground
Maruti Suzuki Ritz which usually outsells Figo and Beat sold only 3,574 units in May 2012 which is 39% decrease as against its sales in April 2012. It has to be noted that the Ritz clocked above 5,000 units during the first three months of this year. Ford Figo, which sold at an average of about 7,000 units between January and March 2012, now sells at less than 4,800 units for the past two months. Sales of Chevrolet Beat have come down from about 5,600 units in March to 4,100 units in May whereas the Honda Brio, despite having only a petrol engine managed to hold on to an average of 4,800 units in the last three months. However, with petrol prices increasing the Brio is under increasing pressure to make an appearance in diesel, and there are rumors that Honda is speeding up its diesel plans. Chevrolet Spark, Maruti Suzuki A-Star and Estilo continue to sell in far less numbers as against their modern rivals such as Hyundai Eon.
Among the premium hatchbacks, sales of the Polo came down to 2,039 units in May from 3,397 units in April. Similarly, the Nissan Micra which usually sells above 1,000 units seems to have lost its appeal among buyers for in May 2012, the company sold only half the number at 540 units. Some of it has got to do with the Renault Pulse taking away about 600 units in sales. The low volume seller, Fiat Punto (715 units), thus, surpassed the sales of Micra, a rare occurrence. The Skoda Fabia also has lost ground and its sales have declined steadily since Jan 2012. From 963 units in January, the sales numbers of Fabia have come down to 304 units in May.
In the recent past, sales of premium hatchbacks such as Swift and i20 have surpassed some of their petrol-only counterparts such as Wagon R and i10 respectively. This growing trend shows that the demand for premium hatchbacks (especially diesel) will remain immune to market fluctuations caused by petrol prices and inflation until the government decides to hike excise duty of diesel cars or increase diesel prices.
Source: Team-Bhp, industry data