April 1, 2020 / 6:21 AM / 2 months ago

India's top carmaker Maruti Suzuki reports 16% sales fall

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Sales at India’s biggest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India (MRTI.NS), which sells one in every two cars in the country, fell 16% in the last fiscal year, hit by a slowing economy and lean demand as well as the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Cars are seen parked at Maruti Suzuki's plant at Manesar, in the northern state of Haryana, India, August 11, 2019. Picture taken August 11, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Maruti, majority owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp (7269.T), sold 1.56 million vehicles during the year ended March 31, compared with 1.86 million in the previous year, the company said on Wednesday.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected nearly 800,000 people across the world and caused more than 38,800 deaths, according to a Reuters tally. In India, 32 people have died from 1,251 confirmed infections so far.

To curb the spread of the virus, the government last week sent the country into a 21-day lockdown, forcing automakers such as Maruti, Mahindra & Mahindra (MAHM.NS), Ford Motor Co (F.N), Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) to suspend manufacturing.

Maruti sold 83,792 units in March, compared with 158,076 units a year earlier, but said the numbers were not comparable as it had to suspend operations from March 22 in the wake of the government order.

“The shutdown started only last week, so the fall is still steep even if it is not comparable,” said Shashank Kanodia, an auto analyst at ICICI Securities.

“If this is the trend, we can expect to be negatively surprised by all automakers.”

The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, an industry body, estimates that plant closures by automakers and auto part manufacturers are expected to lead to a daily revenue loss of more than 23 billion rupees ($305 million).

In the last fiscal year, India’s Nifty auto index <.NIFTY AUTO> tumbled nearly 44% as slowing economic growth and the rising cost of car ownership made consumers reluctant to spend and auto sales hit record lows.

(Graphic: Nifty and Nifty Auto index's monthly performance in the last fiscal year link: here)

In March, as financial markets across the globe were battered over fears of the impact of the virus on the economy, the auto index crashed 31.47%.

(Graphic: Nifty and Nifty Auto index's comparison for the last fiscal year IMAGE link: here)

Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru and Aditi Shah in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Gaurav Dogra

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