India's "Top 10" Best-selling Car Brands in 2020

Any which way you look at it, the Indian automotive landscape is one of a kind. There's no other market in the world I'm aware of that sells more than a couple of million cars every year but still dominated by one brand.

Did the COViD-19 pandemic that gripped the country (and the whole world!) in 2020 change any of that? Apparently not, looking at the sales figures. One thing that did change though is the industry reported 'zero' sales in April 2020 when the whole country went into a lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. This had never happened before and hopefully, never happens again.

As we look forward for a better year, here's the list of "Top 10" best-selling car brands that survived 2020 in India:

There's no stopping the Maruti-Suzuki juggernaut

  • 2020 threw everything at India's largest car-maker. From shutting down their plants during the lockdown to bringing them back upto scale within a few weeks, from having to discontinue their strong-selling diesel line-up when BS6 emission norms were implemented to multiple attempts by rivals to snatch their lead in many lucrative segments, the Japanese brand prevailed and came out stronger.
  • As a result, Maruti-Suzuki still sells one in every two cars sold in India, the 18% drop from 2019's numbers notwithstanding.
  • Add the cars sold to Toyota to retail through their outlets and the number goes even higher!
  • If the 'S' badge can pull in so many customers with a petrol-only line-up, imagine what would happen if the 1.5-liter diesel engine makes a comeback as widely reported. Competitors should be a worried bunch.
  • Despite the love we Indians shower on them, Suzuki's desirable models like the Swift Sport and Jimmy aren't in India. Sad! They're also lagging behind in the EV race. Hyundai, Mahindra, Tata and even MG have electric cars on sale in India.

Tata storms to third behind Hyundai

  • Hyundai continues to be all alone in the race, having reported sales of 423,642 units. That's a 17% drop over 2019. While the Creta and Venue are big-sellers raking in the profits, hatchbacks like the Grand i10 and i20 continue their strong run.
  • Tata has been the shining star in the Indian market over the last 12 months, managing a growth of 11% in what was an extremely tough year. Their product-led transformation has been amazing to witness. From nailing the design to acing the safety tests, the Indian car-maker has focused on all the right aspects so far. Altroz has now joined the Nexon and Tiago in bringing in the volumes while the Harrier is playing the role of a flagship to perfection. Tata, on its part, isn't resting on the laurels and is having its kitty full. Next up is the Safari debuting later this month.

Kia and MG make inroads

  • Kia's entry - and subsequent rise - in India has been almost flawless. Seltos and Sonet have been smash hits and the Carnival is doing pretty well as an image-builder. I was right in predicting Kia's rise in our market after all! Is there no chink in the brand's armour then? Oh no, there's one and that's a big one. I'm referring to Seltos' modest showing in the Global NCAP tests. A 3-star rating is unacceptable for a model that retails for 20 million rupees in its top spec.
  • Mahindra had a tough year. It's domestic sales slid 38% pulling the brand down to fifth. With the XUV5OO's magic starting to fizzle out, Mahindra is now dependent on its old workhorses Bolero and Scorpio for volumes. The rest of the line-up, barring the XUV3OO, have fallen flat. After the stupendous success of the new Thar, Mahindra would be pinning its hopes on the all-new XUV5OO and Scorpio to turn the tide around. Elsewhere, Mahindra has other problems to contend with. SsangYong is a bit of a headache now and discussions with Ford on the proposed joint-venture has come to a screeching halt as well. 
  • Renault, in sixth position, did a good job of arresting the fall, helped by the launch of the Triber and the timely facelift of its bread-and-butter Kwid. The French car-maker learnt pretty early that it needed market-specific models to survive in India and the Kiger is the next in line.
  • Next up is Toyota, the world's largest car-maker. That they deemed it fit to tie up with Suzuki to bolster their 'affordable' model range in India shows how tough our market is for global brands to figure. Innova Crysta and upwards, Toyota is doing just fine.
  • Honda is on a free fall right now. With sales almost half of what it was in 2019, the Japanese brand has clearly seen better days. The City, with all it's might, is doing what it can but needs help from a high-riding sibling that's nowhere to be seen. Come on Honda, get your damn SUVs and crossovers here!
  • With the proposed joint-venture with Mahindra that was going to bring in new models not happening now, Ford has hit a roadblock. What the American car-maker has in store for India remains to be seen. Seven years after launch, EcoSport is still the model that keeps Ford going.
  • MG, the erstwhile British brand now owned by China's SAIC, makes an entry into the Top 10 pushing Volkswagen out. From bringing in three new models in just 18 months, equipping and positioning them well to putting in a lot of efforts towards brand building, MG has done a lot of things right.

Outside the top ten, Volkswagen, Skoda and Nissan are trying to get their respective houses in order. While the two European brands are lining up new launches in a renewed bid to make it big here, Nissan has just struck gold with its Magnite. Let's see if these brands manage to shake things up in the top ten list this year.

BMW pips Mercedes-Benz in the luxury race *

  • While Mercedes-Benz has not announced its 2020 sales figures yet, BMW was leading the luxury race by a healthy margin until the end of November.
  • Assuming December threw no major surprises, BMW should have easily finished ahead with a total of 6,092 units sold last year.
  • That's a massive drop from the 9,000 and 13,786 cars BMW and Mercedes-Benz managed to sell in 2019. Clearly, India's rich tightened their wallets to let the pandemic pass.
  • The rest of the luxury brigade are too far off to threaten this duo.
Source: Official manufacturer press releases and monthly sales charts published in Team-BHP & Auto Punditz

* Mercedes-Benz hasn't released its 2020 sales figures

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