Maruti Suzuki has raised its sales forecast for the current fiscal year (to 31 March) on surging demand for new cars in India.

Maruti, 54.2%-owned by Suzuki Motor, is number one in the Indian market by some margin and said it expects sales to rise 31% year on year.

Chief executive Shinzo Nakanishi told reporters, however, that production in December is likely to be lower than November because of a planned seasonal maintenance shutdown.

The forecast is higher than Maruti's September estimate when the company said it expected sales to rise 18% to 1.2m vehicles in the 2011 fiscal year 2011.

Maruti Suzuki has a 50%+ market share in India where the economy is growing at nearly 9% a year, creating a boom in demand for vehicles. Total industry sales are expected to grow by 18-20% this fiscal year.

In November, Maruti's sales rose 28% to 112,554 units, despite a 12% fall in export volumes. The company is planning to invest US$1.3bn over the next three years to boost capacity. Earlier this year, the company said it would build a fourth car plant in India to lift output to 1.5m units a year.

The new factory is scheduled to start operations in 2013, with annual capacity of 250,000 units.