The fiscal 2013-14 — one of the worst years for the Indian auto sector in more than a decade — ended with its last month bringing little cheer for the passenger vehicle (PV) makers mainly supported by the recent excise duty cut, new launches and usual discount offers.

This March saw some companies managing to grow their volumes when compared to February as also a year-ago period. But there wasn’t any tangible signs on demand recovery as buyers are still grappling with high inflation, pricey fuel and high cost of borrowing.

“Two factors impacted the passenger car sales last year. One, the growth of per capita disposable income over growth of inflation was negligible or negative.

This was the most important factor that drove down sales. Two, due to the high inflation, there was a drop in domestic saving rate – consumers were under stress to maintain their lifestyles. This situation does not support purchase of cars, in general,” Kumar Kandaswami, Senior Director, Deloitte India, told The Hindu.

Auto industry admitted that the excise duty reduction was a positive step and resulted in rise in number of enquiries. Honda, among the fastest growing car-makers, continued to maintain its run rate. Its March volumes stood at 18,426 units as against 14,543 units February.

Maruti, Hyundai and Mahindra managed to show higher domestic sales in March when compared with the volumes of previous month, while Tata and Ford reported a decline.

Maruti’s domestic sales were up at 102269 units in March when compared with 99,758 units in February, but it was down 5.2 per cent as against March 2013 volumes. Hyundai clocked domestic volumes of 35,003 units when compared 34,005 units in February this year and 33,858 units in March 2013.

The month of March brought some happy news for Nissan, which has been battling falling volumes. Aided by its recently-launched sub-Rs.4 lakh car Datsun Go and continuing momentum for its compact SUV Terrano, it clocked highest-ever monthly sales of 7,019 units (include 2072 units of Datsun) in March.

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