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Car Makers Post Lacklustre May Sales

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India's top car makers posted lacklustre sales in May as an excise tax hike and rising fuel prices hit demand, casting more gloom over the country's economic outlook.

Car makers are struggling to hit a 10 to 12 percent full-year sales growth target set by the local industry body as India's economy grows at the slowest pace in nine years.

Maruti Suzuki, the biggest car maker with a 45 per cent market share, said passenger car sales fell 5.9 per cent from a year earlier. Tata Motors, the country's No.3, posted a 6 per cent increase.

Ford, which manufactures cars in India, said its sales in the country fell 14 per cent. General Motors posted a 27 per cent slide in sales.

The government raised petrol prices by around 11 per cent last month, hurting car makers already reeling from an excise hike announced in the budget in March and a weakening of the rupee that is jacking up import costs.

India's economy grew 5.3 per cent in the first three months of 2012, compared with 9.2 per cent a year earlier, with the manufacturing sector contracting 0.3 per cent.

Mahindra & Mahindra, India's biggest SUV and jeep manufacturer, said passenger car sales rose 27 per cent in May, mainly thanks to its all-diesel range.

Demand for diesel vehicles has doubled over the past year to account for around 40 per cent of India's new sales because of state subsidies that make the fuel more than 50 per cent cheaper than petrol.