Car sales are down 5 per cent and truck volumes have plummeted 27 per cent so far this fiscal, but two-wheelers sales are revving up amid the economic gloom.
Scooters, motorcycles and mopeds saw a volume growth of 5.7 per cent in April-November 2013. This is well above the 2.9 per cent recorded for the 12 months ended March 2013. So what’s driving this trend?
Scooters have, for one, clocked an impressive 19 per cent sales volume growth in the April-November period. Apart from crowded traffic conditions and poor public transport (which usually drive two-wheeler sales), scooters have benefited from their better luggage space, the increasing number of women drivers and their unisex appeal, which allows any member of the family to use them, say industry experts.
Gearless scooters, which make up most of the market here, have been much in demand with brands such as Pleasure, Maestro (Hero), Activa, Dio, Aviator (Honda), Ray (Yamaha) and the newly introduced Jupiter (TVS) figuring among the bestsellers.
In fact, slowdown or boom, scooters have witnessed good demand over the past few years, so much so that their share in total two-wheeler sales has moved up from about 15 per cent in 2007-08 to about 24 per cent now.
Strong rural demand Entry-level motorcycles (75 to 110 cc) have been zipping off the showroom shelves too, especially in the past three months.
Here, rural demand resulting from a good monsoon has come to the aid of motorcycle sales.
Rural demand constitutes an important proportion of revenues for motorcycle makers, with companies such as Hero Moto Corp deriving almost half their volumes from villages. Hero says its rural sales are growing 9-10 per cent, compared to about 5 per cent in urban areas.
Hero’s HF dawn, HF Deluxe, Splendor and Passion, and newer bikes such as the Dream Yuga (Honda), Pantero and Centuro (Mahindra and Mahindra) have been the most popular in this segment.
The high interest rates of the past two years have also led to consumers seeking out less expensive executive bikes. Consumers have actually stepped down from premium bikes.
Launches targeted at this segment have helped two-wheeler makers reap handsome gains. The success of the Ignitor from Hero, Phoenix from TVS and Discover 125T from Bajaj Auto are proof.
Cash purchases Then, industry experts say that two-wheeler buyers, unlike car buyers, usually fund much of their purchase with cash and don’t rely too much on loans. Therefore they aren’t interest rate-sensitive.
That’s a recent trend. “About eight years ago, the financed component of two-wheelers used to be 40-50 per cent. Today, it is more around 25 per cent,” says Anoop Mathur, President, Two-wheeler sector, Mahindra and Mahindra.