Thousands of Indians rushed to the nearest automobile showroom on Friday as dealers offered deep discounts and a slew of freebies to clear leftover stock of cars and two-wheelers compliant with the older BS-III emission norms after the Supreme Court banned their sale from April 1.
Showrooms offered discounts of up to a lakh but in many cities, prospective buyers went back disappointed as dealerships either ran out of stock or downed shutter following excessive rush. Experts said many dealers had booked the vehicles themselves, to sell it later for a massive profit. The sale of the older vehicles is banned from Saturday but there is no restriction on their registration.
Between 1.5 and 1.8 million two-wheelers are sold every day, translating into an average of 50,000 sales daily. Dealers in all cities said most of the discounts were absorbed by respective automobile companies that were not available for comment.
“Many dealers have booked these vehicles either in their names or in the names of their friends and families at a discounted price. They will later book profits by selling it at a premium,” said Amit Kaushik, managing director (India) with Detroit-headquartered consultancy firm Urban Science.
In Gurgaon and Chandigarh, many two-wheeler showrooms closed for the day after hundreds of customers thronged dealerships after hearing about a clearance sale.
“I came to buy an Activa but these people have closed the showroom. I came today after getting news of discounted clearance sale”, said Kamla Devi while waiting outside Honda showroom in Sector 14 market.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court banned the sale of BS-III compliant vehicles from April 1, dealing a Rs 12,000 crore blow to the auto industry. Dealers were left with just 48 hours to dispose of nearly 850,000 vehicles, around 750,000 of which are two-wheelers.
A sales manager from a Honda showroom in Chandigarh said 50 out of 73 vehicles sold on Friday were BS-III models.
Bikes and scooters were sold at a discount of Rs 15,000-25,000 while many cars had a rebate of between Rs 50,000 and Rs 100,000.
“I thought I will get a scooter at cheap rates but the showroom is out of stock now” said Daljeet Singh, a disappointed buyer from Chandigarh.
In Jaipur, many dealers had to put down the shutters to avoid excessive rush leaving buyers annoyed.
“I wanted to buy a two-wheeler, but there is heavy rush and I am unable to meet the dealer to know about the availability of vehicle and discount on particular model,” said Ravi Mahawar, a buyer.
Sai Girdhar, the secretary of the Rajasthan Authorised Motor Vehicle Dealers Association, said there was no panic among the states 350 auto dealers. “There is a stock of nearly 15000 four-wheelers and 45000 two-wheelers in the state and all dealers can sell their stocks. It’s a blessing in disguise for customers who are being offered discounts. If stocks are left then it is company’s responsibility,” Girdhar added.
In Lucknow, employees at Gud’s Car Care, a dealer of Maruti-Suzuki two-wheelers in Nishatganj area, said they had work well past midnight on Thursday as eager buyers queued up to avail the huge discounts.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. We are giving a discount up to Rs 20,000 on bikes,” NU Alam, the proprietor. Alam has hired private security guards for two days to manage the customers rush and ensure order in his showroom. Suzuki Motors has three dealers of its premium segment bikes in Lucknow.
In Kolkata, many two-wheeler dealers had to return the customers who had queued up outside showrooms hoping to avail discounts. The dealers said that they have been getting inquiry phone calls from customers since Thursday.
(With inputs from HT Correspondents in Lucknow, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Gurgaon and Kolkata)