The familiar large convoys of SUVs and utility vehicles such as Bolero, Scorpio, Innova, Fortuner and Endeavour leaving behind a trail of dust as netas criss-cross for campaigns haven't translated into big-bang sales of these vehicles around 2014 Lok Sabha polls, which are dubbed as most expensive in country's history.
Unlike in the past, this time around SUVs and utility vehicles seem to be losing lustre, putting paid to hopes of those in the auto industry who were banking on improved sales of these vehicles during the election time.
While the overall slowdown in the economy has impacted automobile sales, availability of smarter means to reach out to the electorate such as SMSes and social media also seem to have impacted the sale of these vehicles for electioneering.
According to latest data of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), sales of utility vehicles, under which the SUVs are also classified, were down 4.55 per cent in March at 51,414 units as against 53,866 units in the same month last year.
Similarly, in February also, sales of utility vehicles were down 9.09 per cent at 43,507 units as against 47,859 units in the same month in 2013.
"Elections have not had a positive impact on sales of SUVs and utility vehicles this time around. In the past, there used to be some increase in sales of these vehicles," SIAM President Vikram Kirloskar said.
According to him, in modern times, there are better and more effective means such as SMSes to reach out to the electorate. His view is in fact supported by the historical data of sales of these vehicles in the previous two general elections.
Ahead of the 2004 general elections which were held in April-May, as per SIAM data, sales of utility vehicles grew by 46.34 per cent to 13,796 units in February 2004 as compared to 9,427 units in the same month previous year. Likewise, sales of utility vehicles in March 2004 grew by 6.38 per cent to 16,281 units from 15,304 units in the year-ago month. However, in 2009, when the country was coming out from the impact of a global financial downturn that hurt the automobile industry badly, the general elections then did not result in robust demand for the SUVs and utility vehicles.
According to SIAM, sales of utility vehicles in February 2009 were down by 13.13 per cent to 19,151 units as compared to 22,048 units in the year-ago month. In March 2009, sales of the same vehicles were also down by 8.64 per cent to 26,647 units as against 29,169 units in March 2008.
Explaining the current trend, Country CEO and Managing Director, Renault Operations in India, Sumit Sawhney, said: "There is nothing specific to elections that we have seen related to sales increase. The March month growth is due to the financial year ending as usual."
Expressing similar views, Mahindra & Mahindra Chief Executive (Automotive Division) Pravin Shah said: "We see some sort of increase in enquiry, that is, however, not connected to a visible increase in sales."
The reason for the increase in enquiry could be the reduction in excise duty announced in the Budget or for some of the products from demand in some states on account of elections, he added.