New Delhi, Apr 10 (PTI) Passenger vehicles sales in India were at a record high in 2017-18 touching almost 3.3 million units, growing at 7.89 per cent driven by demand from smaller towns coupled with increasing popularity of utility vehicles.

According to the data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) today, domestic passenger vehicles (PV) sales were at 32,87,965 units beating the previous best of 30,47,582 units posted in 2016-17.

Domestic car sales in 2017-18 were at 21,73,950 units as against 21,03,847 units in 2016-17, displaying a growth of 3.33 per cent.

Utility vehicles (UV) sales were at 9,21,780 units last fiscal as against 7,61,998 units in 2016-17, a growth of 20.97 per cent.

However, exports of PVs were down 1.51 per cent at 7,47,287 units in 2017-18 as against 7,58,727 units in 2016-17.

Vehicle sales across categories also registered 14.22 per cent growth at 2,49,72,788 units in 2017-18 as against 2,18,63,281 units in the previous fiscal.

“We ended the year on a positive note with almost every segment posting positive growth, except passenger buses. This reinforces the fact that despite having a difficult year, the auto industry has shown its resilience,” SIAM Director General Vishnu Matur told reporters here.

Last fiscal, the auto industry had to endure the lingering effects of demonetisation, impacts of transition from BS-III emission norms to BS-IV across India and implementation of GST in July last year, Mathur said.

He also said in the last three-four years top 20 cities that contribute to about 50 per cent of the PV sales have shown slow growth.

“What we are seeing now is that there is more demand coming from smaller towns and semi-urban areas. Many major automobile companies are trying to go to those markets,” Mathur added.

Another factor that has led to the growth of PV sales in India is the increasing popularity of UVs with more and more consumers opting for such vehicles ahead of compact cars or sedans.

In FY18, UV sales accounted for 28 per cent of total PV sales in India, up from 25 per cent in the previous fiscal.

During 2017-18, market leader Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) sold 16,43,467 units of PVs at a growth of 13.84 per cent. Rival Hyundai Motor India clocked 5,36,241 units, up 5.21 per cent.

Homegrown auto major Mahindra & Mahindra’s PV sales were at 2,48,859 units posting a growth of 5.39 units, according to SIAM data.

The other highlights of 2017-18 include record production of passenger vehicle which crossed 4 million mark, while that of utility vehicles passed one million mark, SIAM said.

The year also saw the highest sales and production in passenger car and utility vehicle segments, it added.

Moreover, the year also saw maximum two-wheeler sales at 20.2 million, while production for the same was also a record at 23 million.

Total two-wheeler sales in FY18 stood at 2,01,92,672 units as against 1,75,89,738 units in FY17, up 14.8 per cent, SIAM said.

On the back of strong numbers, Mathur said the Indian automobile industry could provide the answer to the challenge of employment generation provided there is a conducive growth environment.

“Policy environment has been unstable in the last one year and despite those challenges, the auto industry has grown,” he said, adding the industry has been one of the main growth drivers of Indian economy.

On the outlook, SIAM said PV segment is expected to witness high single digit growth in 2018-19 and due to shift in preferences from large cars. UV segment is also expected to clock strong growth.

The auto industry also hopes that the teething problems associated with GST would be over and the trading community would start contributing to volumes.

The improving rural sentiments and continued traction for popular models are also expected to continue, it added.

In the month of March domestic passenger vehicle sales were up 6.38 per cent at 3,00,722 units as against 2,82,698 units in the same month last year.

Car sales were marginally up at 1,91,082 units last month as against 1,90,236 units in March last year, Motorcycle sales last month jumped by 25.13 per cent to 11,45,221 units compared to 9,15,259 units in March 2017.

Total two-wheeler sales in March were higher by 18.35 per cent to 17,41,649 units compared to 14,71,636 units in the year-ago month.

Sales of commercial vehicles grew by 24.55 per cent to 1,08,681 units in March as against 87,258 units, SIAM said.

Vehicle sales across categories registered 18.23 per cent growth to 22,23,517 units last month from 18,80,592 units in March 2017, SIAM added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.