Maruti Suzuki expects sales for the fiscal year to March 2010 to rise by about a fifth, a senior company official said on Wednesday.

After a downturn in 2008, car sales in India have picked up since January and the sector has seen double-digit growth for the past five months buoyed by stimulus measures and festival demand, Reuters noted.

Maruti's car sales have risen 27% during the eight months to November and is expected to be good in December as well, Shashank Srivastava, the company's chief general manager of marketing, told the news agency at an event to announce the launch of EECO, its multipurpose vehicle,

"Growth numbers for the fourth quarter may not look so great," Srivastava said, as the higher base effect will start kicking in from January.

"For the fiscal year, sales should grow by 18-20%," he said. In comparison, Maruti's sales for the year to March 2009 rose 1.5% to 722,144 units.

Maruti will launch the EECO van on 7 January and it will be available in five- and seven-seater versions, with an expected initial sales tally of 40,000 units a year.

Though its pricing has yet to be finalised, it will be priced below the Versa van which starts at INR350,000 rupees (US$7,500) for a base model, he said.