India's "Top 10" Best-selling Car Brands in 2019

As we saw earlier this week, 2019 wasn't a bad year for the automotive industry in the United States of America. Here in India though, things weren't as hunky dory. A combination of new regulatory norms, liquidity crunch and deficit monsoon ensured customer sentiments across urban and rural India remained weak all through the year. Passenger vehicle sales suffered as a result, dropping to 2,936,839 units in 2019. That's a significant 12.3% drop over the 3,349,386 units sold in 2018

To put those numbers in perspective, 2019 saw the biggest drop in automobile sales in India in over two decades. It was also just the second time since the dawn of the new century new car sales in India failed to grow. Yes, ours was a market that grew even during the 2007-08 global economic recession, which says an awful lot about the current state of affairs!

Amidst the doom and gloom, let's take a look at 2019's Top 10 Car Brands in India.

Maruti-Suzuki's dream run continues

There is some magic hidden in the 'S' badge that words quite can't describe. What else would explain the fact that, despite every other major car-maker stepping up their presence in segments currently dominated by them, 1 in every 2 new cars sold is still a Maruti-Suzuki? Even the softening market conditions could not help Hyundai, Mahindra and the rest of the chasing pack to gain big on the leader. That said, even the King couldn't buck the trend and ended up losing over 14% in sales and 1% in market share vis-a-vis 2018.

Almost every model in Maruti-Suzuki's line-up - Alto, S-Presso, Wagon-R, Swift, Baleno, Dzire, Ciaz, Vitara Brezza, Eeco - ended the year as segment best-sellers or were close to being the best. Even the so-called duds like the Ignis and S-Cross sell more than what most brands sell collectively. 

To add to it's competitors' woes, Maruti-Suzuki has now started selling the same cars with different badges through different channels. The Ertiga got a nose job and became the XL6 to be sold via Nexa while the Baleno swapped logos with Toyota to morph in to Glanza. The partnership with Toyota - a global leader in hybrids - in particular has all but ensured Maruti-Suzuki is here to rule the market. The competition should be worried!

Hyundai and Mahindra gain on shaky ground

Maruti-Suzuki's loss was Hyundai's gain with the Korean car-maker gaining a percentage point in market share. However, the bosses in Seoul won't be too happy with how things panned out in 2019. Perennial best-sellers Grand i10, i20 and Creta couldn't maintain their record 2018 sales figures while the new Santro failed to live up to their internal expectations. Helping Hyundai big-time was the newly-launched Venue, the demand for which stemmed the drop at 7%. But, the Korean camp had some good news too and that's coming in the form of Kia.

Interestingly, Mahindra's issues were very similar to Hyundai's. Market share went up slightly but the Indian brand sold 5% fewer cars in 2019 compared to 2018. Keeping the cash registers ringing were the old workhorses - Bolero, Scorpio and XUV5OO. Despite a strong start, both the Marazzo and XUV3OO have started seeing significant month-on-month decline in sales already. Something has to be done. Quickly. And the folks at Mahindra know it. Are the upcoming new Scorpio and XUV5OO the solution? May be. Let's wait and watch.

With the three leading brands controlling a whopping 75% of the market, a dozen or so brands are left to fight it out for the remaining one-fourths. 

Renault enjoys a stellar year

Edging ahead of its rivals, Tata finished 2019 as the fourth-largest car-maker in the country. Coming on the back of an excellent 2018, the 28% drop would have been a rude shock for the Pune-based brand though. Even the much-hyped, newly-launched Harrier couldn't help with only the Nexon and Tiago bringing in decent numbers. Honda and Toyota are paying the price for not having proper crossovers in their lineup at a time when customers are moving away from sedans and hatchbacks. Still, the Amaze helped Honda's cause while the big T's bills were paid by the high-priced Innova Crysta and Fortuner.

That gets us to Renault, one of the two bright spots in the industry at the moment! The French brand has always been a cut above the rest when it comes to identifying niches in the market. They did that with the Duster and Kwid in the past and have repeated the act with the Triber. Indians duly rewarded with their wallets. With no direct rival in sight, Renault should be able to ride the Triber wave for some time. 

There was no such good news for Ford that's still hinging on the EcoSport for survival. The Endeavour is doing great though and shows 'Brand Ford' isn't as weak as one might think!

Kia was the other bright spot in the Top 10 list. The Korean brand's launch in India has been incredibly successful with the Seltos decimating its rivals including the erstwhile best-seller Creta. From setting up the factory in record time to launching the Seltos in a multitude of variants to suit every buyer and price point to planning and executing the ramp up to perfection, Kia's Indian launch deserves to be a case study in itself. Expect the brand to move up the ladder in 2020 and beyond!

With the decade old Polo and Vento, Volkswagen should be happy that it found a place in the Top 10.

Outside the list, MG had a good start to their Indian innings with the Hector and the future does look promising for the Chinese-owned British brand. Skoda is another brand to watch out for.

Mercedes-Benz leads BMW in the luxury race

At the premium end of the market, the sentiments were pretty similar. Mercedes-Benz is still India's favourite luxury car brand with 13,786 units sold in 2019. That's a 10% drop compared to the record 2018 sales but enough to steer well clear of BMW that reported sales of 9,000 units. E-Class, the first model launched by Mercedes-Benz in India, turned out to be the brand's best-seller with the C-Class, CLA and GLC also contributing well. The trio of SUVs - X1,X3 and X5 - led BMW's charge.

There's lots in store for 2020 starting with the implementation of Bharat Stage-6 emission norms from April. Let's have our fingers crossed!


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