New Delhi: Car sales in India registered their steepest monthly decline in over 10 years in October, tanking by 23.77 percent on account of a huge drop in output by the country's largest car-maker Maruti Suzuki due to labour trouble, coupled with high interest rates and fuel prices.

According to figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) on Wednesday, domestic passenger car sales stood at 1,38,521 units in October, as against 1,81,704 units in the same month last year.

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This is the fourth consecutive decline in car sales on a year-on-year basis since July, mainly due to the severe impact of labour issues on Maruti Suzuki India's production.

"This is the steepest decline since December, 2000, when car sales in the country dropped by 39.86 percent," SIAM Director General Vishnu Mathur told reporters here. The industry was expecting positive sales growth in October, due to the festive season, but it did not happen, he added.

"The reason for the fall is mainly due to the high interest rates and high fuel prices and also a big drop (in output) by Maruti Suzuki," Mathur said.

Maruti Suzuki India has been facing labour problems at its Manesar plant since June this year, which resulted in either the complete or partial stoppage of production on three separate occasions.

In October, MSI's sales declined by 55.11 percent to 41,192 units from 91,754 units in the same month last year.

Rival Hyundai Motor posted a 5.31 percent fall in sales to 32,811 units in October this year from 34,651 units in the same period last year.

Tata Motors also reported a marginal dip in sales to 20,948 units from 21,093 units in the same period last year.

Domestic passenger car sales had fallen in July for the first time after 30 months of continuous growth, registering a 15.76 percent decline to 1,33,747 units, mainly due to hikes in lending rates and lower production by MSI in that month.
Currently, interest rates on car loans are hovering around 12-16 percent.

Mathur said sales have mostly been affected in the smaller car segment due to the negative sentiment.

"There is still demand in the mid and bigger segments, specially for diesel cars. On one hand, we have long waiting periods for diesel cars and on the other, there is no demand for petrol cars, as the price difference between diesel and petrol fuels is around Rs 30 per litre now," Mathur added.

Asked if the October sales will lead to a revision of the sales forecast for the fiscal, he replied in the negative and said: "We need to wait and watch for November and December, as Maruti is expected to gain numbers after the resolution of the strike."

In October, SIAM had significantly lowered the passenger car sales growth forecast for 2011-12 to 2-4 percent for the second time after pegging it at 10-12 percent in July, as against 16-18 percent announced at the beginning of the fiscal.

As per the figures released by SIAM, motorcycle sales grew marginally during in October to 8,79,883 units from 8,74,146 units in the corresponding month last year.

Market leader Hero MotoCorp's sales fell marginally to 4,64,175 units in October this year from 4,64,271 units in the same period last year.

Bajaj Auto saw a 1.90 percent rise in sales to 2,44,503 units from 2,39,936 units in the same period last year, as per the latest SIAM data. TVS Motor Company posted a 13.04 percent decrease in sales to 58,959 units last month from 67,798 units in the corresponding period of the previous year. Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India's (HMSI) sales went up by 8.73 percent to 65,660 units from 60,387 units.

Scooter sales during October stood at 2,11,360 units, as against 1,88,522 units in the same month last year, a 12.11 percent increase.

Market leader HMSI posted sales of 1,06,154 units, up 33.24 percent, while TVS Motor Co saw sales of 44,550 units, a growth of 2.20 percent.

In addition, Hero MotoCorp registered sales of 32,930 units, an increase of 21.58 percent.

Total two-wheeler sales grew by 2.01 percent to 11,47,621 units last month from 11,25,052 units in October, 2010, as per the data.

Sales of commercial vehicles grew by 18.53 percent to 61,800 units during the month under review from 52,138 units in the year-ago period, SIAM said.

Light commercial vehicle sales rose by 15.34 percent during the month to 34,776 units from 30,151 units in October last year.

Sales of medium and heavy commercial vehicles stood at 27,024 units, as compared to 21,987 units in the same month last year, a 22.91 percent increase.

Three-wheeler sales fell by 2.06 percent to 49,031 units during the month under review from 50,064 units in October 2010.

Total sales of vehicles across categories registered a decline of 1.05 percent to 14,41,594 units in October from 14,56,901 units in the same month last year, SIAM added.

(Agencies)