Maruti Suzuki Alto cars to be exported are parked in a holding area at Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone in Mundra, 400km from Ahmedabad. Photo: AFP/ Sam Panthaky

The spiraling Covid-19 numbers in India and the limited lockdowns announced by various state governments are now worrying carmakers. Leading automobile companies like Maruti Suzuki and others see a dent in sales if the current coronavirus surge continues.

Maruti Suzuki officials feel that since car buying is a discretionary purchase, it is related to consumer sentiment and economic growth. So the deteriorating Covid-19 situation will adversely impact sales, the Press Trust of India reported.

A senior Toyota Kirloskar official said that although they have a good number of pending orders, the localized lockdowns and other restrictions have impacted the order flow and delivery schedules.

In the latest development, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced a six-day lockdown which will be effective from 10pm to 5am. Delhi recorded 25,500 fresh cases on Sunday, with almost one-third of those undergoing tests turning positive. The national capital is also facing an acute shortage of hospital beds, medical oxygen supplies and key medicines.

Earlier the Maharashtra government imposed a 15-day curfew, curtailing the movement of people and non-essential commodities across the state, including its capital Mumbai. There are also reports that a stricter lockdown may be announced in the next two days.

The state is the worst hit in the country with a caseload of 3.8 million as of April 18, with more than 60,000 fatalities. Meanwhile, India has so far reported more than 15 million confirmed Covid-19 cases after the pandemic started last year.

Upbeat sales

Passenger vehicle sales have remained buoyant in the country despite the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. In March, total domestic sales of passenger vehicles soared 115% against the same period last year, according to a report by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. The country’s automakers sold 2,90,939 units in March 2021, up from 1,35,196 units last year.

This was the eighth consecutive month of growth for passenger vehicles as people continue to be wary of using public transport amid Covid-19 fears. Other segments such as two-wheelers, three-wheelers and commercial vehicles, which were adversely impacted by the pandemic, also showed improvement in March.

However, the ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases and lockdown restrictions may deter customers from visiting showrooms. Moreover, weekend curfews in some cities will force car dealers to keep their outlets shut and all this could impact sales in the coming months.