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Fortune rains down on India’s carmakers

Multiple price hikes across the year has not dampened the enthusiasm of car buyers

Car garage Representational image

Ukraine war? Fuel price hike? Inflation? Semiconductor short supply? And before we forget, post-pandemic blues?

All that is a distant memory as India’s auto industry saw fortune raining down, much like the unseasonal showers enveloping swathes of Northern India at the close of the financial year. Several brands on Saturday claimed that they have achieved their highest-ever retail sales, or at least the best in many years.

And let’s not even go to the government’s push for electric vehicles and the supposed writing on the wall that time’s up for the internal combustion engine.

From the looks of financial year 2023, which ended on Friday, such prophesies may have to wait. Take Maruti for example, perhaps the worst-affected due to shortage of raw materials. The auto giant romped home selling 19.66 lakh cars in the April-March period, a solid 20.5 per cent growth compared to the previous fiscal. In March alone, the Delhi-based company sold 1.7 lakh cars.

Hyundai, the second biggest carmaker after Maruti, clocked a decent 18 per cent growth with 7.20 lakh cars sold in the year. Challenger Tata, which really came into its own with a set of electric and ICE models that fired up the auto marketplace over the past year or so, closed the FY with 35 per cent growth. For Tata, that amounts to 9.31 lakh units – but note that this figure also includes commercial vehicles, an area in which the Pune giant has been historically strong.

Toyota’s local operations claim that the year-ended (March 31st) was its best in a decade, with a growth of 41 per cent year-on-year. “Extremely pleased to close the fiscal year on a positive note and expect continued momentum and growth in fiscal 2024 and 25,” said Atul Sood, vice president (sales and strategic marketing), Toyota Kirloskar.

The attitude is firmly gung-ho amongst other players, too. While Hyundai’s sister company Kia said its 44 per cent growth rate took its market share to an all-time high of 7.4 per cent, MG Motor said its growth rate was a mighty decent 28 per cent -- a momentum it hopes will only get stronger, as it gets set to launch its much-hyped smart electric car Comet in the Indian market soon. Nissan saw a growth of 23 per cent for the whole year and a massive 73 per cent in March alone.

Surprising, considering that Nissan’s India Managing Director Rakesh Srivastava admits that “The financial year 2023 was a challenging year for the auto industry with challenges in shortage of semiconductors and inflation affecting cost of ownership.”

But then what gives? Many believe that India’s massive infra push and economy muscling up even as a better part of the globe struggles with post-Covid and recession fears, helped. Even multiple price hikes across the year has not dampened enthusiasm of the car buyers.

“Despite global headwinds, we see momentum in the Indian auto industry backed by the strong India growth story led by millennials and gen Z,” pointed out Tarun Garg, Chief Operating Officer, Hyundai India.

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