As they say, it’s blessings in disguise for Maruti Suzuki as the total bookings for its Swift touched 1,08,000 until last week that’s recorded as the highest for a car in India.
Blessings in disguise in the sense Maruti’s been in a heated turmoil over the last few months with persisting labour conflicts that’s been hampering the sales coupled with hike in interest rates and fuel prices where the country’s seen a sudden demand for diesel machines.
To that end, Maruti’s been able to produce at least 700 cars daily from its two plants at Manesar and Gurgaon respectively, although there’s a long waiting period of 5 months for petrol versions and about 6 or more months for diesel versions.
Company officials still believe they have loyal Swift customers who’d wait for the model to reach them rather than hurriedly making their decisions to shift their focus to another car. To this end, it can be true that Maruti have loyal customers, but a switchover to another brand by rival companies is still a possibility due to extended wait periods for some models.
Maruti has been busy deploying new strategies to uplift the continuity of work at its plants, to be precise, at its Manesar facility where they’ve hired 850 ITI-trained contract workers to ramp up their production. They’ve also starting producing the Swift at their Gurgaon plant while starting a paint shop and an automated welding shop at their Manesar unit beforehand including a host of other minor changes.
There has also been a decision made regarding production of a shorter Swift Dzire to boost demand in sales and also to take advantage of lower taxes imposed on cars developed less than 4 meters announced by Minister, P. Chidambaram, although Maruti’s still undecided about the new name for the model with speculations that they’d be eyeing the European markets too with recession in Europe evident and consumers there going for small cars.
With a drastic slowdown in the Indian market currently, Maruti’s not far behind its rivals coming up with discounts and freebies in hopes of selling its other models.
Another official from Maruti says discounts are up when compared to the first 3 months of this year and says discounts on all of their products coincide with what they did in 2008 and 2009. In June of this year, discounts were between Rs. 9000 to Rs. 9500, which is comparatively higher to Rs. 8000 to Rs. 8500 a year ago. At the moment, discounts are shooting up between Rs. 11,000 to Rs. 11,500. Dealerships in Delhi are selling Maruti Alto with discounts worth Rs. 20,000 on Maruti’s top selling car. Discounts on Maruti’s various models are also up compared to 2008 and 2009.
Officials fear that Maruti having undergone a loss of Rs. 1000 crores in turnover aided by disruption in production at their plants would further hamper sales in that they expect it to be going down by 5% at the end of the year.
Unrests at their plants did spark off when Maruti forcibly made its workers sign the ‘good conduct bond,’ which most long-term workers didn’t agree to thereby Maruti taking a step further by hiring new employees.
Swift booking crossing a lakh or more looks like a faint light finally at dark times for Maruti. It remains to be seen what they do with the persisting labour unrest that’s still an ongoing issue, for the company would need a long time to fully heal from the current situation.