One of the company's cars. Photo: AFP/Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto

Indian passenger vehicle makers witnessed a steep fall in sales in March as customers kept away from showrooms over Covid-19 fears and the subsequent three-week lockdown from March 24. The country’s leading car maker Maruti Suzuki India Limited has reported 47% year-on-year fall in its total sales during March to 83,792 units. The company, however, clarified the two periods were not comparable due to the plant shutdown from March 22 this year.

The company sold 145,000 vehicles in March last year. Exports were down 55% to 4,712 units from 10,463 in the year-ago period. With this, the company ended FY 2019-20 with total sales of 1.5 million units, down 16.1% from 1.8 million in the previous fiscal.

The country’s second largest car maker Hyundai Motor India also witnessed a 47% decline in sales. It sold 32,279 units during March, as against the previous year’s sale of 61,150 units. Hyundai had suspended operations at its Chennai plant on March 23.

For other car makers the fall was even steeper. Tata Motors, the auto unit of salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group, said its passenger vehicle sales fell 68%. The company has said that in future it would report sales numbers once a quarter instead of monthly to “avoid needless short term volatility,” Livemint reports.

Mahindra & Mahindra, the maker of sports utility vehicles, registered an 88% decline in sales. Toyota has said its total sales in March fell 59% to 8,022 vehicles.

The auto industry was already facing a demand slowdown due to the country’s slowing economy. In addition, the government move to adopt tougher emissions standards had forced carmakers to hike prices, thereby driving customers away.

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, an industry body, had earlier estimated that plant closures by automakers and auto part manufacturers will lead to a daily revenue loss of more than 23 billion rupees ($305 million).

Truck sales

In the commercial vehicle industry, March sales had declined close to 90% for all companies. Tata Motors’ sales declined 90% in March, to 5,336 units from 50,917 units a year ago. Medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales declined 90% to 1,601 units in March from 15,327 units in the same month last year. For the full year the sales dropped 34% to 310,855 units from 468,692 the previous year. Medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales during the same period were down 50% to 75,485 units.

Ashok Leyland sales dropped by 91% to 1,787 units in March 2020 from 20,521 units, a year ago. The drop was led by Medium and heavy commercial vehicle trucks which were down 93% to 899 units from 13,134 a year ago, while bus sales dropped by 71% to 599 units from 2,101 units. Light Commercial Vehicles were down 95% to 289 units from 5,286 a year ago.

Its annual sales of medium and heavy commercial vehicles dropped 46% to 71,421 units, compared with 1,31,936 units in the same period last year. Ashok Leyland’s total commercial vehicle sales volume dropped 37% to 1,16,333 units during the 12 months ended March 2020, compared with 1,85,065 units during same period previous year.