NEW DELHI: Premium hatchback cars have failed to override the sluggish market conditions, with cumulative sales in the once fastest-growing segment declining 14% in the first four months of the year as buyers switched to the cheaper entry-level models.
Sales of premium hatchbacks slipped to 38,640 a month on average between January and April, compared with 44,730 units in the year-ago period, a trend that reflects the broader market where sales have continued to decline for the past seven months in a row. Barring Hyundai’s i20, which posted an impressive gain of 19% in sales, all other hatchback models hit the reverse gear.
Market leader Maruti Swift, suffered a 6% decline in sales while Volkswagen Polo was just a shade better at 5% down in the four months to April. According to the data of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, sales of Toyota Liva crashed by 28%, Ford Figo fared even worse at 38% decline and Nissan Micra witnessed the steepest fall of 62% during this period. As sales fell in 2012-13 by 7%, the highest in any fiscal over the past decade, demand has grown for entry-level cars such as Hyundai Eon and Maruti WagonR at the expense of the more aspirational models.
Premium hatchbacks are additional cars in the family and the segment has taken a hit as potential customers are postponing new purchases, said Pradeep Saxena, executive director at market research firm TNS Automotive.
“India has a large proportion of first-time car buyers that are withering away due to the grim economic conditions,” said Saxena, who attributed the slowdown in the sales of Maruti Swiftto possible upgrading by potential customers to the DZire compact sedan.
The Hyundai i20, however, gained about 5.3% share in the segment during the first four months of the year as the company pushed the petrol variant amid rising diesel prices and continued to refresh the model.
“The i20 has been a strong performer with diesel and petrol power train. Its uber life positioning with sporty styling, premium features helped us differentiate to create a premium compact segment and increase our market share in the compact segment,” said Rakesh Srivastava, vice president (marketing & sales) at Hyundai Motor India. Srivastava said the company’s sedan models Verna and Elantra had also gained in their respective segments.