Predictions for 2024: Small cars may lag in a good year for motown, says RC Bhargava, Maruti Suzuki

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The growth of the automobile industry, which in normal times closely tracks the growth of the GDP, was adversely affected in 2019-20 by the switch to BS6 standards, then by the Covid pandemic and finally by the shortages of semi-conductors. It was in 2022-23 that the industry could finally cross the volume of sales reached in 2018-19.

This was despite the sale of small entry-level cars, which had been severely affected by the cost increase due to BS6, being over 200,000 lower than in 2018-19.

The current year can be said to be as normal as 2022-23, except that small car sales will have fallen below the previous year numbers. Overall, passenger vehicle sales in 2023-2024 would be at record levels of about 4.13 million. However, the annual sales growth from the 2018-19 levels up to this year would still be under 4%. The 2023-24 growth rate would be a little over 6%.

The year 2024 is expected to be normal in terms of the availability of components, including semiconductors. There are no reasons to believe that Covid-like events would disrupt production or demand for cars. Intense competition is resulting in most car manufacturers lining up several new models, including electric cars.

The economy is doing better than in any other major country, and the forecast for next year is also of good growth — in the range of 6.5-7%.

Assuming that the monsoons are normal, it would be reasonable to expect that the growth in car sales would be similar to this year. The lack of demand for small cars is the one major negative factor for sustained higher growth. I do not expect that sales of small cars would revive significantly in 2024-25 but some movement may be possible in the next year. The sales of two-wheelers, which had also fallen due to BS6, have now started to increase and small cars should follow with a lag.

Over all my expectation is that 2024 would be a reasonably good year for the car industry.

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