Auto firms fear impact of COVID-19 on sales

‘Cases, buyer sentiment hit order flow’

Leading automobile companies such as Maruti Suzuki India (MSI), Toyota Kirloskar Motor and Honda Cars said they feared a dent in sales as COVID-19 cases surged across the country.

The country’s largest carmaker MSI said auto sales were correlated closely with economic growth and also — being a discretionary purchase — with consumer sentiment.

“The COVID-19 situation… is obviously a negative for customer sentiment and thus has an… impact on sales,” MSI executive director (Sales and Marketing) Shashank Srivastava said..

Lockdowns made it physically impossible to deliver cars; but, even the deterioration in the COVID-19 situation without lockdowns also psychologically dents consumer propensity to buy, he noted.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor senior VP Naveen Soni acknowledged that localised restrictions have hit order flow and delivery schedules.

“We will be able to access trends and define numbers only by the end of the month depending on the severity and [extent] of the restrictions. As of date, we have had a good number of pending orders that had to be carried forward from the month of February and March to April. Therefore, we are striving to meet customer demand in spite of local restrictions and lockdowns,” he noted.

On manufacturing operations, Mr. Soni said the company continued to cautiously proceed with vehicle production.

“Our immediate focus is to streamline the demand and supply processes with more accuracy and manage production, along with faster deliveries, [thus] reducing delivery time,” he added.

The well-being of employees as well as dealer and supplier staff are sacrosanct, he said, adding that the automaker had already reintroduced monitoring systems which were in place including submission of a self-declaration health form.

“As responsible corporates, we are continuously monitoring the situation carefully and will take accurate actions, as and when required. More importantly, this time we have precious lessons from last year to learn, unlearn and reflect upon,” he noted.

‘Shut showrooms’

Honda Cars India said it was keeping a close watch on the emerging situation.

“Lockdown and weekend curfews will impact sales as showrooms will be shut in some of the markets. We are currently assessing and taking feedback from various cities about its extent,” Honda Cars India senior VP and director (Marketing and Sales) Rajesh Goel noted.

India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases crossed the 1.5 crore mark on Monday with a record single-day increase of 2,73,810 new novel coronavirus infections, while the active cases surpassed the 19-lakh mark.

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