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India rescues Japanese carmakers

The global meltdown may have left automobile companies battered but Japanese companies Toyota, Honda and Suzuki found growth solace in India. In 2009-10, this troika posted its highest growth in car sales here, even as sales fell in US and Europe. Sumant Banerji reports.

autos Updated: May 12, 2010 00:53 IST
Sumant Banerji

The global meltdown may have left automobile companies battered but Japanese companies Toyota, Honda and Suzuki found growth solace in India. In 2009-10, this troika posted its highest growth in car sales here, even as sales fell in US and Europe.

Suzuki Motor Corporation's subsidiary Maruti not only grew the fastest in 2009-10 but almost doubled the profits (Rs 2,625 crore) of the parent company's Rs 1,395 crore.

A growth of 21 per cent facilitated Maruti breaching the 1 million production mark this year. Parent SMC's worldwide growth was just 2 per cent --- it plummeted by 7 per cent in both Europe and Japan, while production was almost wiped out in US with sales falling by 52 per cent to 41,000 units.

Ditto for Honda and Toyota --- though on a much smaller base.

"Our growth this year was because we introduced the Fortuner along with continued dominance of the Innova and Corolla," said Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd.

The company's sales rose by 36 per cent --- they fell by 10 per cent in the US and 15 per cent in the Europe. Apart from India, the company's growth markets were China (up 35 per cent) and Japan (15 per cent). But with sales of a little over 63,000, its contribution to worldwide sales of 7.3 million is marginal.

In the case of Honda, while sales crashed in Europe and the US, they rose a healthy 40 per cent in India. Like Toyota, while it grew by 24 per cent in China and 16 per cent in Japan, the small base of under 66,000 units makes the growth statistically insignificant to the company's total sales of 3.3 million.

The numbers may get bigger themselves as both companies look to launch at least one small car within the next two years in an industry where small car sales account for over 70 per cent of total sales.

"Our sales in India will continue to grow simply because the market itself is one of the fastest growing in the world," said Jnaneshwar Sen, vice president (marketing), Honda Siel Cars India.

"Besides our existing cars, our second small car that will hit the market by 2011 will bring incremental volumes."