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maruti suzuki: Car sales in September set to touch fresh highs on strong festive demand

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Mumbai: Car sales in India are estimated to scale new highs in September taking the monthly, quarterly and first half (fiscal year) volumes to a record high. Fueled by an encouraging consumer demand in the ongoing festive season and spate of new model launches in the SUV segment that has helped sustain buyer interest, car makers are likely to dispatch around 365,000-370,000 units in September 2023 implying a growth of 3-4%, according to the industry sources. Auto firms in India count dispatches to dealers as sales.

“We do expect the September sales to be one of the highest ever for the industry crossing 360,000 units. Even as the absolute volumes are expected to be high, the percentage growth may not be high on account of a high base of September 2022 when the wholesales stood at 355,000 units,” said Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer- sales and marketing at car market leader, Maruti Suzuki India.

Tarun Garg, chief operating officer at Hyundai Motor India concurred. “At Hyundai we expect a growth of 9% in September. The pace of fresh bookings has been strong. For us, the Exter has been adding to the growth momentum. The industry will see around 3% growth over the last year with around 365,000-368,000 units (including luxury cars),” said Garg.

Auto makers are set to continue with the aggressive pace of dispatches in October and November as the peak of the festive season sets in with Navratri on October 14 after the dry spell of Shraadh—which begins from September 29 and ends on October 13. As per the Hindu calendar, the 15-day period is considered inauspicious for any big-ticket purchase.

The retails in September though are expected to lag the wholesales as dealers stock up for the expected surge in retails from Mid-October. By the end of the current month, cumulative stock at the dealerships are expected to touch around 330,000 units. Such large stocks were last seen more than five years ago in the months between August to November of 2018-19, said Srivastava.

However, these stock levels may not be worrying as the underlying demand is pretty strong and unlike in FY19 the inventory, in terms of number of days, is well within 30 days.Meanwhile, while demand is least of a concern among the dealers, the need for a higher working capital limit is. A sharp increase in the average selling price of models and the need to be stocked up ahead of the peak season, is necessitating getting higher working capital limits from the banks, said Nikunj Sanghi, managing director at JS Four Wheels, a Alwar-based dealership for Mahindra and Mahindra and Hero MotoCorp. “Working capital is a huge challenge,” he pointed out. From last fiscal to the current one, the requirement has gone up three times, he said. “Not many doors are open for those with stressed financials,” said Sanghi.

Auto sales in the world’s third largest auto market have been advancing at a brisk pace for straight 19 months. September will be the third month in a row to see monthly sales crossing 350,000-units taking the total September quarter sales to 1.08 million units—a record quarterly sales. It will also be the first time ever that sales in the first half of the fiscal will cross the 2-million-unit mark.

If carmakers are able to sustain the current average run-rate of the last three months, the industry could touch a record volume of 4.2 million units in FY24 translating into a growth of 9% after a 26% growth seen in the previous fiscal year. The volumes are expected to advance 16% in FY21 and FY24 compared with flat growth in the last decade.

“The one factor regarding dealer inventory that industry needs to closely watch though is its segment wise construct as model wise inventory may be lopsided, ” cautioned Srivastava. Some models still command long waiting periods, while others are in excess supply, he noted.

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