* Maruti sales up 22.6 pct y/y, sixth monthly rise in a row
* Exports of A-Star, new Ritz drive sales
* Hero Honda motorbike sales up 23.7 pct (Adds detail, Hero Honda sales)
MUMBAI, July 1 (Reuters) - Maruti Suzuki (MRTI.BO), India’s top car maker, said its car sales rose 22.6 percent in June, up for the six month in a row, led mainly by exports of the A-Star and sales of its newly launched Ritz hatchback.
India’s automobile sector was hit by a fall in consumer confidence last year as high interest rates, lack of financing and a general economic slowdown turned away prospective buyers.
However, after a series of measures to stimulate the economy, including a cut in factory gate duties and a gradual lowering of interest rates, car and bike makers are back in brisk business.
Maruti’s total sales in June were 75,109 units, while exports jumped to 13,units from 4,836 year ago. [ID:nBMB003256]
“This month’s export numbers are the highest ever monthly export volume in the company’s history,” Maruti said in a statement on Wednesday.
The A-Star hatchback, which was launched in November last year, has received an overwhelming response in European countries such as Germany, the UK, Netherlands, Spain and France, the company said.
At 11.15 a.m. (0545 GMT), shares in Maruti, 54.2 percent owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T), were down 0.6 percent, having risen 68 percent in the first six months of 2009.
In the two-wheeler segment, Hero Honda Motors HROH.BO, the country’s largest motorbike maker saw its sales rise 23.7 percent. [ID:nBMB005721]
Hero Honda’s strong rural customer base has also helped the company to ride the slowdown, though with monsoon rains so far lacklustre, the company could take a hit there in the future, analysts said.
“It has reached the highest sales point this month...and if the monsoons are not good this year its sales could suffer in the short and medium term,” said Vaishali Jajoo, auto analyst with Angel Broking.
Rains are vital to an agrarian economy such as India.
Shares in Hero Honda were up 1 percent and have risen by almost three-quarters so far this year. (Reporting by Janaki Krishnan; Editing by Lincoln Feast)