Car buying in India has begun to resemble grocery shopping with the price you pay for a model depending on your ability to bargain, reported India Today.

As in many western markets the bargaining is not just for the price of the car but also for the rate of interest buyers want to pay on the loan and ‘freebies’ on offer, the newspaper said.

For example, India Today said, General Motors’ Opel Corsa now comes with a 40,000-rupee discount, free insurance, a three-day holiday in Shimla and a driver training programme while Hyundai’s Santro can be driven home without paying a rupee. Besides a zero down payment, the Zip comes with a Rs 20,000-23,000 discount, a free Standard Chartered credit card and 3-5 per cent discount on the loan amount.

Apart from the usual cash discounts and free accessories there are newly discovered freebies like extended warranties, free insurance and holidays, India Today said.

The reason, the paper said, is that Indian passenger car sales have slipped by 7.15% from 162,622 cars in April-June 2001 to 150,995 in the same period this year with the popular Suzuki-based Maruti 800 plunging by 28% from 34,797 to 24,982 cars.

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India Today said the slump in the market has forced car makers to reconsider their marketing strategies or postpone launches with Maruti’s Grand Vitara, Ford’s Escape and Toyota’s Camry and Corolla all possibly delayed along with the Hyundai Terracan SUV.

India Today said car makers are introducing stripped-down versions of old models to lure tight-fisted customers and some have resorted to desperate price cuts but that is hitting profit margins.

Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of the magazine Autocar India told India Today that the bottom line of car companies and dealers may be hit by up to 5% because of price cuts alone.

But for those in the business getting customers is the priority right now, the newspaper added.