Auto sales on fast lane in December, trucks, two-wheelers drive growth

The statistical aberration caused by the demonetisation-induced slump in December 2016, however, made most growth numbers look better.

December was a good month for big and small vehicles — commercial vehicles and two-wheelers — even as passenger vehicle sales posted only a moderate growth. The statistical aberration caused by the demonetisation-induced slump in December 2016, however, made most growth numbers look better.

While M&HCVs volumes grew by a whopping 73% in December 2017 over the same month in the previous year, the April-December growth for 2017 looks far more moderate at 9.27%. The same is the case with two-wheelers, which clocked a heady 41% in the last month of 2017, but by a far less uplifting 11.7% for April-December.

However, the trend wasn’t quite the same for passenger vehicles, which grew 5% in December 2017, against a higher nine-month growth rate of 8%.

While the two-wheeler and medium and heavy commercial vehicles (M&HCV) segments were the most impacted due to the note ban, as much of the purchases of such vehicles are in cash, the same was not true for passenger vehicles. While two-wheeler volumes had dipped by 22% in December 2016 (against December 2015), M&HCV sales declined 12%, with the sharpest dip seen in sales of long-haul trucks. In the case of passenger vehicles, sales in December 2016 dipped by just 1.3%.

This has translated into a strong showing by two-wheelers and M&HCVs this December. The fastest sales within two-wheelers was seen in scooters, which grew by 52%, riding on a popularity wave for these nifty modern vehicles in urban centres. Two-wheeler sales also got a leg up from a rural recovery owing to normal monsoons, a good kharif output and the wedding season.

M&HCVs volumes posted a strong growth in December, as buyers took advantage of steep discounts of 12-15% being offered by OEMs to clear inventory ahead of the roll-out of costlier trucks with AC or ventilation systems in cabins, which has been mandated from January 1.

Analysts point to increased government spend on road construction, along with a pick-up in infrastructure activity and mining. In the light of this, they expect the positive trend on M&HCV sales to continue in the last quarter of the fiscal. Sales of M&HCVs by Tata Motors grew a staggering 83% in December 2017 to 15,828 units, while Ashok Leyland reported growth of 82% to 15,950 units.

Passenger vehicles sales were not as startling, but still healthy, driven by dealer discounting to clear the year’s stock and replace it with the new supplies with revised prices. Analysts, however, note that some buyers would probably wait for January rather than own a dated model since applicable taxes are now fixed under the GST and unlike to be tinkered with following the Budget in February.

While the overall passenger vehicle sales grew, passenger car sales remained flat in the month. The growth in the segment came from utility vehicles, which grew by 15% year-on-year. Maruti Suzuki reported a double-digit growth once again in December after a smart 14% year-on-year increase in sales in November. The carmaker, which has had a good run this year, averaging a 15.5% year-on-year growth between April and December 2017, fared well both in the car segment – Baleno and new Dzire – as well the utility vehicles (UV) segment.
Toyota Kirloskar Motor and Mahindra & Mahindra reported a decline in sales volumes in December. Sales for Toyota declined 15%, while M&M reported a dip of 7%. Hyundai’s sales remained flat.

If one sums up unit sales of vehicles across categories, sales in December 2017 grew 36% to 16,66,646 units, up from 12,21,969 in the year-ago period.