In a country, which has a history of being partial to small cars, the year 2012 saw a change of wheels. It is not the small cars driven in by companies such as Renault SA and General Motors Co that made headlines this year, but rather the newly launched compact utility vehicles that stirred up the market.
Leading the pack is Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, whose Ertiga unleashed a storm in the multi-utility vehicle space in the country. The Ertiga sold around 45,000 units between April and October to claim for itself a robust 23 per cent share in the segment.
"We still have around 26,000 pending orders for the Ertiga. We have increased production capacity of the Ertiga but demand continues to outstrip supply," said Mayank Pareek, chief operating officer (sales and marketing), Maruti Suzuki.
The vehicle, priced between Rs 592,000 and Rs 863,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi), has thrown a serious challenge to Toyota's flagship model Innova. Maruti Suzuki sold over 7,000 units of the Ertiga last month, compared to the Innova's 5,889 units.
French automaker Renault's Duster and home-grown utility vehicle giant Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M)'s Quanto were the other two popular models launched this year.
While the Duster, with average monthly sales of around 3,500 units, has put Renault on the map of the cut-throat passenger vehicle market in India, M&M has retailed around 5,000 units of the Quanto since its launch on September 20.
|TOP-FIVE CAR LAUNCHES IN 2012|
|Mkt share in its|
segment, Oct (%)
Ertiga (12 Apr) *
|M & M Quanto
(20 Sep) *
|Source: Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM)|
*Sales numbers for the models have been shared by the company. The market share has been calculated on the size of the segment the models were positioned by SIAM.
"We have doubled production capacity of the Duster to around 7,000 units a month to cope with the demand," said a senior executive at Renault India, who did not want to be named.
US-based auto giants Ford Motor Co and General Motors, too, have scheduled the launch of their utility vehicles - the EcoSport and the Enjoy, respectively - this financial year to cash in on the demand for such vehicles.
The share of utility vehicles in the passenger vehicle industry in India grew to 20 per cent between April and October from 14 per cent. Sales of utility vehicles increased by over 60 per cent in the period.
Industry experts hold that the introduction of compact utility vehicles at affordable price points has spurred growth in the segment.
"There has been a shift in lifestyle of Indian consumers. People tend to drive out more often for weekend trips with families and friends. SUVs (sports utility vehicles) offer more seating capacity, are diesel-driven and therefore more powerful and fuel-efficient. Therefore, this segment has grown despite the sluggish market," says an analyst at a Mumbai-based advisory firm.
The passenger vehicle industry posted a moderate growth of around 12 per cent, selling 2.33 million vehicles during January-October.
Overall, the dozen-odd new models introduced till October brought in over 29 per cent of the incremental sales recorded in the passenger vehicle market. This included Hyundai Elantra, which, cornering a market share of 33 per cent, has become a best-seller in the executive sedan segment.
On the other side, two new small cars launched this year - Renault Pulse and Chevrolet Sail - have received lukewarm response. The Pulse clocks average monthly sales of around 527 units, the Sail has retailed over 300 units in the seven cities its was launched in since November 2.