India's "Top 10" Best-selling Car Brands in 2018

Despite sky-rocketing fuel prices, negative market sentiments and widespread predictions of the growth phase coming to an end, car sales in India grew 7.65% in 2018 to end the year with over 3.34 million units. That’s a solid increase over the 3.1 million units sold in the country in 2017. 

And in a classic case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, the top four brands grew along with it while the other brands – barring a couple of exceptions – struggled to maintain momentum.

With all the numbers reported and reconciled, here are 2018’s Top 10 Car Brands in India.


Maruti-Suzuki continues to be at its ruthless best

Long time market leader Maruti-Suzuki continued its bull run with a whopping 52% share of India's automotive pie and a growth rate that was slightly higher than the overall market. Factor in the massive baseline Maruti-Suzuki enjoys and the numbers are mind-boggling. Think of it. Maruti-Suzuki increased its sales by 128,657 units in 2018 which is more than what Ford, the seventh largest car-maker in the country, sold all of last year!  

All bread-and-butter models wearing the ‘S’ badge are flying off the shelves and the car-maker is slowly and steadily expanding its leadership in the premium segments as well. Alto, Wagon-R, Swift, Baleno, Dzire, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga and Ciaz lead their respective segments by quite some margins while models like the Omni and Eeco continue to do exceedingly well in the niches they have created.

Is there scope for Maruti-Suzuki to grow further? Well, yes, the Ignis was a rare blip in the radar and they should have an SUV or crossover bigger than the Vitara Brezza to take on the Hyundai Creta. If that happens – which we think will – the competitors, especially Hyundai, should be really worried. 

Hyundai and Mahindra bring up the Top 3

Hyundai’s lonely race in India as the second-largest car-maker continued in 2018. With Maruti-Suzuki up in the stratosphere and the other brands far behind to threaten it, the South Korean car-maker is in a position that’s both enviable and unfortunate. Why unfortunate, you ask? Move by move, model by model, Maruti-Suzuki is keeping Hyundai’s growth aspirations in check. Hyundai brought in the all-new Verna with so much hope but Maruti-Suzuki tackled it with a mere facelift of the Ciaz. The all-new Santro is not even three months old in the market and the new Wagon-R is already ready for launch. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And it reads KIA!

Mahindra ended 2018 as the third largest car-maker in the country but 2018 could have been better for the Nashik-based car-maker. Newer models like the TUV3OO and KUV1OO aren’t doing as well as expected while the older models like the Scorpio and XUV5OO are coming under increasing pressure from newer and modern rivals. The dated workhorse Bolero is still the brand’s best-seller, which explains the plight Mahindra is in. With the very competent Marazzo gaining acceptance and the XUV3OO waiting in the wings, 2019 holds a lot of promise for Mahindra.

Tata is on a steady growth path

The star of the Top 10 list, without a doubt, is Tata Motors. With an extremely impressive 26% increase in sales over 2017, Tata moved past Honda and almost pushed Mahindra off the last podium slot. The amazing product-led transformation that the Pune-based car-maker embarked on has started paying dividends and it’s up to the folks at Tata to maintain the momentum and get into the big league. The Tiago and Nexon are pulling in the numbers right now while the upcoming Harrier has a big role to play as the brand’s image-builder. 

Honda is the only brand in the top five that slid, thanks to the City losing its long-held reign at the top of its segment to the Ciaz. Combine that with a slew of duds in the form of Brio, BR-V and Jazz and it’s clear Honda needs to change track in India. The new Amaze has been a massive hit though and help keep Honda’s decline in check. The just-launched CR-V and the upcoming Civic won’t fetch volumes but could aid profitability and make the “H” badge aspirational again. 

Apart from the top four brands, Toyota and Ford, at numbers six and seven, were the only car-makers that grew in 2018. For the Japanese behemoth, Innova Crysta and Fortuner put in solid performances while the refreshed EcoSport kept Ford going. With avenues for further growth severely restricted for various reasons, both these car-makers have resorted to alliances for the next phase of growth. Toyota has inked a deal with Suzuki to exchange cross-badged models while Ford is eyeing a joint-venture with Mahindra.    

Renault’s dream run with the Kwid has hit a road block and the French car-maker needs to do something quick to arrest its freefall. The same is applicable to Datsun as well with the redi-Go on a downward spiral and the recently refreshed Go twins doing nothing to bring in customers. The lesser said about Volkswagen, the better. The almost-a-decade-old Polo and Vento can only sell so much!

Outside the top ten, Skoda is doing respectable numbers in the premium segments while Nissan, Fiat and HM-Mitsubishi continue their unanimous presence in the Indian market. With Kia and MG Motors all set to storm into India this year and Peugeot slated for a 2020 entry, this list might see some churn in the coming years.

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