Plunging sales, strikes plague auto industry

New Delhi: A year that began with a bang only to fizzle out in the end with car sales posting the steepest fall in nearly 11 years; a year marred by strikes — 2011 will be one that the Indian automobile industry would like to forget in a hurry.

At a time when sales were hit badly by higher interest rates on automobile loans and costlier fuel, crippling labour disputes affecting firms like Maruti Suzuki, General Motors and MRF made the industry hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Nevertheless, one of the major milestones for the year for the industry was the launch of a new brand identity by the B M Munjal-led Hero Group, following the break-up of erstwhile Hero Honda, and announced its strategies for a solo journey without former Japanese partner Honda.

The year gone by also witnessed some exciting new model launches, including Hyundai`s 800-cc car Eon, and some intense moments between the West Bengal government and Tata Motors on the return of land in Singur following the relocation of the Nano plant.

Yet when it came to sales, it was a case of gravity finally catching up with the zooming sales that were witnessed in the previous year. After bidding adieu to 2008-09 slowdown and posting robust growth of over 25 per cent last fiscal, it is now likely to see a low, single-digit increase in vehicle sales in 2011-12.

Indian car sales hit an all-time monthly high in January, 2011, registering a jump of 26.28 per cent to 1,84,332 units.

However, with rising interest rates and fuel prices, the sales started moderating during the year. .