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

Indian carmakers had a drastic fall in sales in May, compared with April, as more states imposed localized lockdowns during the month to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest carmaker, reported a sequential decline of 71% in May. During that month it sold 46,555 units, compared with 159,691 units in April 2021.

The carmaker sold 33,771 units domestically and exported 11,262 units. It sold 1,522 units to other original equipment makers. Maruti Suzuki and Toyota have an agreement to supply certain models to each other for the Indian market.

“In May 2021, the company had shut production from May 1-16 so as to divert oxygen from industrial use for medical purposes,” the carmaker said.

It should be noted that Maruti Suzuki sold a mere 18,539 units in May last year. However, year-on-year sales are not comparable because in May last year India was going through a long countrywide lockdown.

Rival Hyundai Motor India reported a 48% decline in sales in May, compared with April. The country’s second-largest carmaker sold 30,703 units last month, against 59,203 units in April.

In the domestic market, Hyundai sold 25,001 units in May, down from 49,002 units in April – a drop of 49%. Its exports also declined 44% as the carmaker was able to ship only 5,702 units in May, against 10,201 units in April.

Tata Motors reported a 38% drop in its overall sales in May, compared with the preceding month. The salt-to-software conglomerate sold 24,552 units in the domestic market during May, down from 39,530 units in April.

Its passenger vehicle sales were down 40% to 15,181 units, when compared with 25,095 units in April. Commercial vehicle sales were down 31.5% in May. It sold 11,401 units, compared with 16,644 units in April.

Mahindra & Mahindra’s overall sales fell 52% in May on a sequential basis to 17,447 units. It sold 8,004 passenger vehicles in May, a decline of 56% from April.

The May sales numbers have put the brakes on the steady growth of the automotive sector, which was seeing a revival after the government has eased countrywide lockdowns and the following festival season. The passenger vehicle segment was growing at a faster rate as people were wary of using public transport amid Covid-19 fears.

But the localized lockdowns, which now include major cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata, have affected dispatches of vehicles from the factory to the showroom. Customers are now reluctant to visit showrooms due to virus fears.

The rapid rise in cases and deaths during the second wave of Covid-19 has also pushed up the medical expenses of many households. People are putting discretionary purchases on hold due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic and lockdowns.

The second wave has also made inroads to rural areas, which were comparatively less affected than cities during the first wave.

Although in some parts of the country the number of new Covid-19 cases has started declining, authorities are cautious about easing lockdowns.