Indian car makers report jump in sales

Top car and motorbike manufacturers in India reported booming sales in January, figures showed on Tuesday, with the nation's biggest auto maker Maruti Suzuki leading the way.

Car sales have been on the rise as India recovers from the global downturn and the country's middle class enjoys increasing affluence, with Japanese-owned Maruti Suzuki India reporting a 14.7 percent year-on-year rise.

Total car sales increased to 109,743 in January from 95,649 a year earlier, the Japanese-owned firm said in a statement.

Also benefiting from the upturn in the market is Tata Motors, which said passenger car sales rose 14 percent to 32,386 year-on-year.

Sales of its flagship Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car, climbed 68 percent to 6,703.

Nano car sales, which fell to a record low of 509 units in November, have recovered in the past two months, after the company introduced offers to boost flagging sales.

Sales of Tata's domestic commercial vehicles - seen as a barometer of economic health - rose 12 percent to 40,263 but slowed four percent on a month-on-month basis from December, amid growing concern about an industrial slowdown due to aggressive monetary tightening.

Annual industrial output growth hit a 20-month-low of 2.7 percent in November.

"Passenger car growth remains strong, but commercial vehicle sales appear to be taking a bit of a knock," said Mahantesh Sabarad, senior vice president at Fortune Equity Brokers.

Ford India said it sold 10,026 vehicles in January against 2,453 units a year earlier, led by strong sales of its small car Figo.

But South Korea's Hyundai Motor India, the country's second-largest car manufacturer, reported a 17.7 percent drop in January sales to 43,316.

Nissan India, however, posted what it said were record sales of 1,857 units, led by its small-car Micra.

TVS Motor, India's third-largest maker of motorcycles and scooters, said its total sales rose 30 percent to 165,152 units.

The figures come as car makers have raised the prices of their vehicles to offset higher costs of raw materials such as steel and rubber.

Car sales for the fiscal year to March 31 are forecast to grow by at least 25 percent from a year earlier, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

With just one in 10 households in urban areas owning a car and one in 50 in rural areas, India remains an under-penetrated, alluring market, drawing manufacturers from General Motors to Ford and Renault.

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