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Maruti Suzuki December Vehicle Sales Rise 3.2%

01/03/2013 | 01:06am US/Eastern

NEW DELHI--Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. (523500.BY) Thursday posted a modest 3.2% increase in December vehicle sales, tamed by a sluggish domestic market and a fall in exports.

India's largest car maker by sales sold 95,145 vehicles in the past month, compared with 92,161 a year earlier.

Sales in the local market rose 5.9% to 82,073 vehicles, but exports fell 11% to 13,072 units.

December's growth trails the 12% sales expansion Maruti reported in November, and a record 85% increase in October.

Maruti's sales growth was slow despite the company offering year-end discounts on several models, underscoring weak consumer sentiment in the country amid higher borrowing costs and rising fuel prices in a slowing economy. Maruti had recently introduced an upgraded version of its Alto small car, as well as an automatic version of its Ritz hatchback, to boost sales.

Other car makers in India also have recorded a drop or a modest increase in December sales.

Hyundai Motor Co.'s local unit--the second-largest car maker in India--Tuesday reported a 2.5% decline, while Tata Motors Ltd. posted a 51% drop in local car and sport-utility-vehicle sales. Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., India's largest maker of SUVs, recorded a modest 5.9% increase in December sales.

Maruti--the largest unit of Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. (>> SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION)--has already cut its forecast for growth in car sales for this financial year through March to 3%-5% from its previous projection of 9%-10%.

The company posted an 11% decline in sales in the financial year ended March 2012, to about 1.13 million vehicles.

In December, Maruti sold 32,797 units of its M800, Alto, A-Star and WagonR small cars, a decline of 15% from the year earlier.

Sales of the Swift, Estilo and Ritz hatchbacks gained 8.9% to 22,482 cars, and those of the Dzire sedan climbed 42% to 13,076 autos. Sales of the SX4 sedan declined 61% to 329 units.

Maruti also sold 5,447 utility vehicles in December, compared with 238 units a year earlier.

Write to Santanu Choudhury at santanu.choudhury@dowjones.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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