Maruti Suzuki India posted higher vehicles sales for the third consecutive month in March, as people bought more cars in anticipation of a hike in excise tax in April and helped by demand for diesel vehicles.
Sales grew 3% from a year earlier to 125,952 vehicle in March, India’s biggest car maker by sales said, according to the Wall Street Journal. Local sales increased 2% to 112,724 units, while exports rose 15% to 13,228 vehicles.
Expectations that the government will increase tax, especially on diesel vehicles, prompted people to advance their purchases in March. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on 16 March increased the base excise tax on most Indian-made goods, including cars, to 12% from 10%, but didn’t impose any additional tax on diesel vehicles.
Sales of the company’s Swift, Swift Dzire and Ritz models, which all have diesel variants, rose in the past month.
Sales of the Swift Dzire, Maruti’s popular compact sedan, rose 60% to 16,451 units in March. Maruti introduced a cheaper, shorter version of the Dzire on 1 February.
Indian consumer preference has drastically shifted to diesel-powered vehicles as the fuel’s price is kept in check by the government through subsidies. Petrol isn’t under government control.
Lower demand for petrol vehicles hurt Maruti’s biggest segment of small cars–such as the A-Star, Alto and WagonR models. Sales in that segment, which offers no diesel variants, fell 10% to 52,826 units during the past month.
Maruti sold 1.1m vehicles in the financial year ended 31 March, down 11% from the previous year, primarily due to labour issues at its factories that disrupted production, the WSJ noted.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra both posted their highest-ever monthly sales in March.
Tata Motors posted a 20% jump in March sales to break the 100,000 vehicle mark for the first time. Mahindra, India’s biggest SUV maker, said sales rose 25% to their highest-ever level.
Tata, the dominant player in commercial vehicles, said sales for the fiscal year rose 13% while Mahindra’s grew 28%.