Maruti Suzuki goes on the defensive in a falling market

A general lack of demand for new cars and a preference for roomy SUVs has forced car market leader Maruti Suzuki to join the discount bandwagon with its top-selling Maruti Swift.

Maruti is also offering a discount of Rs10,000 on the Swift DZire compact sedan, for whic there is no waiting period, according to reports.

The company is reported to be offering a discount of Rs5,000 on its best selling model, the diesel variant of Maruti Suzuki Swift, reflecting the pathetic condition of the domestic car market.

Maruti Suzuki India managing director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi today admitted that the growing preference for SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles in the country is posing a challenge in maintaining its market share unless it makes its presence in the SUV segment felt.

''The SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles segment has been growing very fast in India but we are not growing there. We need to have a stronger presence there. Having just the Ertiga is not enough,'' Nakanishi said.

While the company has been focusing on the strength of its small cars, Nakanishi said, the competition on the SUV/MPV segment has been a tougher ''challenge for MSI.''

''We have to bring some more models there,'' he said.

Maruti Suzuki has been exploring launch of new products in the SUV segment and had showcased a concept of a compact SUV named XA Alpha at last year's Auto Expo in New Delhi.

Maruti Suzuki reported an 8 per cent fall in sales in February with a total sales at 1,09,567 units.

Sales of its compact segment, comprising Estilo, Swift and Ritz models, fell by 13.9 per cent to 24,021 units from 27,899 units in the same month a year ago.

Car sales in India hit a 12-year low, plunging 25.71 per cent to 1,58,513 units in February.