Maruti-Suzuki Swift cars roll off the assembly line at a plant in Manesar in India's Haryana state. Photo: AFP

As India battles the coronavirus pandemic with the caseload crossing one million, the automobile sector is one of the industries being hit the hardest.

According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the number of sales this year was 1,094,363 units as against 2,250,407 units last year – a drop of 51%. This includes personal vehicles, three-wheelers, two-wheelers and quadricycles.

While passenger vehicle sales dropped 49.6%, two-wheeler sales were down 38% over last June. Three-wheeler sales suffered a much steeper fall of 80%.

For the April-June quarter passenger vehicle sales degrowth was 78.4%, while two-wheeler sales declined 74.21% from the same period last year. In this case, too, the three-wheeler sales fall was steeper at 91.48%.

Used vehicles

However, used car dealers are witnessing an uptick in sales as people try to avoid using public transport due to virus fears. Prominent used car dealers such as Mahindra First Choice, Droom and Cars24 claim they are witnessing higher sales than last year.

Droom, an online car-selling platform, claims its website traffic has risen 175% and that its leads are up 250%. But Droom CEO Sandeep Aggarwal said the customers have scaled down their budget by 13-15% during the lockdown and are looking for entry-level cars.

Mahindra First Choice CEO Ashutosh Pandey claimed that while demand is high they are facing a supply crunch of used cars and not many existing owners are opting to upgrade.

Used car sales are being driven by demand in smaller towns, which are not in lockdown.

The pandemic has now crimped demand for shared mobility. Firms like Ola and Zoomcar are now looking to downsize their fleets as there are fewer takers for their services.

Shared mobility

Ola Fleet Technologies, which has leased around 30,000 cars to its drivers on its ride-hailing platform, has now approached used car dealers Mahindra First Choice and Maruti True Value to find buyers. Zoomcar, which rents around 10,000 vehicles on a self-drive basis, has also approached used car dealers.

For both the companies a major chunk of their fleet remained unused during the lockdown and even after the easing of travel curbs people are reluctant to use them for fear of contracting Covid-19.