Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) ended the calendar year 2019 with a significant fall in truck sales, as the commercial vehicle industry battled sluggish demand.

The truck and the bus manufacturing arm of German auto major Daimler reported 36 per cent fall in sales of its BharatBenz trucks at 14,474 units during 2019.

DICV reported its highest-ever annual sales in the calendar year 2018 with 22,532 units.

During the fourth quarter of 2019, DICV’s truck volumes declined 54 per cent at 2,413 units compared with 5,293 units during the same period of the previous year.

Weak economy

According to Daimler AG’s 2019 annual report, “The slowdown was pronounced in India, where economic growth dropped to around 5 per cent, the lowest in 10 years. The market decreased sharply due to the unexpectedly weak development of the economy. The Indian market for medium- and heavy-duty trucks developed very poorly and contracted at a clear double-digit rate.”

The CV industry in India, especially the medium and heavy commercial vehicle sector, has been going through a rough patch for more than a year due to excess capacity, poor freight availability on the back of sluggish manufacturing and infrastructure activity and overall economic slowdown in the country.

Due to an upward revision in axle load norms for M&HCVs by 20-25 per cent and reduced lending by NBFCs, fleet owners postponed their purchases. Also, the turnaround time for CVs post-GST implementation became better and has supported the postponement of the additional requirement for trucks.

Thus, the volume decline of DICV reflected the industry trend. While overall CV volumes in India were down 15 per cent at 854,759 units in 2019, the M&HCV segment’s sales (trucks) fell 31 per cent at 246,779 units as against 357,414 units in the calendar year 2018. DICV’s market share fell to 5.8 per cent from 6 per cent in 2018 in the above 9-tonne truck segment.

Bus segment

However, in the bus segment, it maintained the volume levels. DICV sold 1,600 units in India, equalling the previous year’s sales.

Meanwhile, the company is bullish on the export prospects of its factory located near Chennai. Since the beginning of the export business, more than 25,000 export vehicles have been produced in India. The plant in Chennai is an integral component of the worldwide production network of Daimler Trucks & Buses.

“In the context of the planned introduction of the new BS-VI emissions standard, the plant is to gain further importance as a global export hub. Trucks are then to be delivered to countries such as Mexico, Chile and Brazil, where comparable emission standards apply,” the company said.

Amid poor pre-buying of trucks ahead of BS-VI norms that come into effect on April 1, the CV industry expects the domestic demand situation to improve in the second half of 2020.