Fitch maintains stable outlook for auto sector on lower fuel prices, new launches

Car sales saw the highest sales growth in five years at 7.8% in 2015-16

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Rating agency Fitch has maintained a stable outlook for the automobile sector on the back of falling ownership cost due to lower fuel prices and new launches.

"With a consensus expectation of better monsoons this year and new model launches intensifying competition in the passenger car and two-wheeler segments, the agency believes replacement demand will increase, supporting commercial vehicle demand," the report noted. "In addition, the 23.5% salary hike for government employees will provide a one-time demand boost to all automobile segments."

Industry lobby SIAM, in April, had revised downwards its growth forecast for passenger vehicle sales to 6-8% for the current fiscal, citing high taxation and unfavourable environment around diesel vehicles.

In March too, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) had lowered its growth forecast for 2016-17 to 11%, from the earlier 12%, after the imposition of infra cess ranging between 1-4% in the Budget.

Car sales logged the highest sales growth in five years at 7.8% in 2015-16, driven largely by new model launches and heavy discounts. Motorcycle sales for the fiscal were down 0.24% to 1,07,00,466 units while sales of commercial vehicles rose 11.5% to 6,85,704 units as against 6,14,948 in 2014-15. The Fitch report said that between 2010-11 and 2015-16, total auto sales have grown 35% to 24.1 million units.

Of this, domestic sales accounted for 85% and exports accounting for the rest. Rural and middle-income customers drove two-wheeler demand, constituting 80% of domestic sales in the past fiscal.

Out of the total sales, passenger vehicles made up only 13% and commercial and three-wheelers brought up the rest. Robust macroeconomic expansion last year supported the 7.2% growth in domestic passenger vehicle sales to 2.8 million units, up from 3.9% in 2014-15.

Commercial vehicle sales, which rose 11.5%, were boosted by revival in the mining sector. The agency expects strong growth to continue in this segment. While three-wheeler sales grew 1% in 2015-16, two-wheeler volumes rose 3%, lower than 7.9% in 2014-15, as rural demand took a hit from two consecutive monsoon failures.

The overall growth came despite the industry missing the output target for the decade ending 2015-16. The turnover in 2015-16, as per the SIAM estimate, stood at Rs 6.01 lakh crore, which is well within the target range of the Automotive Mission Plan 2006-16

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