Looking to beat the slowdown blues, country's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) today launched a compact car Stingray, priced between Rs 4.1 lakh and Rs 4.67 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).
With the Stingray, which will be more expensive than the existing WagonR by about Rs 20,000, MSI is hoping to attract young customers and make the most out of the upcoming festive season.
"The launch of Stingray is in line with our strategy to provide new and refurbished models to our customers to create excitement in the market place. Indian auto industry has been going through a slowdown, but despite this customers continue to buy Maruti cars," MSI Managing Director and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa told reporters here.
With this, the company will have nine models in its compact car portfolio, he said, adding that the WagonR would continue to be in the market.
"We have sold around 1.3 million units of the WagonR since its launch in December 1999. We are doing on an average of about 12,000 units a month," he added.
Stingray, which is powered by a 998 cc petrol engine, is available in three variants and the company will also roll out a CNG model soon.
The launch comes when the auto industry is gearing up to boost sales in the upcoming festive season.
"We are hoping sales will pick up in the festive season but we are not expecting very strong sales during the period considering the current macro-economic conditions. It won't be as euphoric as last year," MSI Chief Operating Officer (Marketing & Sales) Mayank Pareek said.
Asked about the sales target for Stingray, he said the company hasn't set any numbers.
Pareek said with the difference between petrol and diesel fuels getting narrower, demand for petrol vehicles has been coming back in recent months.
"The industry average is about 54:46 between diesel and petrol now. In two or three quarters we can expect it to be 50:50," he said, adding this trend held out hope for the petrol-driven small car segment, which was earlier battered.
Pareek also said the rupee depreciation has put pressure on margins but ruled out passing the burden to customers, saying the market conditions did not warrant it.
"We are giving discounts to push sales. So going for a price hike now does not make sense," he said, adding the discounts across its model range this year have been 20 per cent more than the last year. The company's average discount is about Rs 14,600.
In July, MSI posted a 10.88 per cent increase in domestic passenger car sales at 63,040 units.
Car sales in India fell for a record ninth month in a row in July, posting a 7.4 per cent decline.
According to data released by SIAM, domestic passenger car sales declined to 1,31,163 units in July this year from 1,41,646 units in the same month of 2012.
Pareek said Maruti is also looking at the rural market to boost sales as the monsoon has been good across the country.
"We are counting on the rural market as it has been a good monsoon so far. Currently, around 30 per cent of the company's sales come from rural markets," he said, adding that Maruti would try to reach out to more villages.
Asked about sales in various regions, he said: "East region is doing good but the sales are badly affected in the Western part of the country."