New Delhi: India’s roads are teeming with festive cheer… and traffic. Auto sales are surging, and so is consumption of petrol and diesel. Indian car and bike makers reported their best monthly sales growth in about two years in September, with dealers stocking popular models in anticipation of robust sales through the Navratras and Diwali, in about a month’s time.

Diesel sales rose 8.8% in the first half of October from the year earlier, the first rise in the fuel’s consumption since the pandemic destroyed demand, signalling a strong turnaround on the eve of the festive season. Compared with a month ago, diesel sales grew a robust 24.5%. Sales of petrol, which had recovered to pre-Covid levels last month, grew an annual 1.5% in the first half of October. It was also 1.4% more than the first two weeks of September.

Data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) showed that sales of passenger vehicles, which include sedans, compact cars and SUVs, rose more than a quarter on-year to 272,027. Car sales, a barometer of consumer confidence, would have been even higher at 31% if despatches by Tata Motors were included. (It reports sales data every quarter.) Two-wheeler sales rose 12% to 1,849,546 units. Sales of three-wheelers declined 72% to 18,640 units in September.

“We expect good demand in the festive season starting tomorrow,” said SIAM president Kenichi Ayukawa. “Thanks to government intervention, auto loan interest rates are below 8%, the lowest in a decade and that should encourage customers to purchase new vehicles. Commercial vehicle and three-wheeler sales are still in the negative growth zone.”

The surge in diesel reflects transport of goods ahead of festive season and a pick-up in industrial activity, oil industry executives said. Online and offline retailers usually stock up ahead of the festive season, driving up demand for fuel.

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