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Diesel hatchbacks give petrol counterparts a run for money

By Motortrend India Staff   |   11 September,2011

The Diesel cars may be pricier, but cheaper fuel has resulted in sales of these cars steadily outstripping their petrol counterparts ever since the price differential widened in May. With diesel cheaper by an average of 53 percent across the major metros, buyers are making a beeline for cars powered by these engines.

Some 56 percent of all compacts sold in August were diesel cars. The figure has steadily risen from 39 percent in July 2010 to 45 percent in January to 51 percent in June. Compacts, which range from the Chevrolet Beat to the Maruti Swift, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Figo, account for 70 percent of all cars sold.

It’s a similar story in the sedan segment comprising models such as the Honda City, Volkswagen Vento, Maruti SX4, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Verna and Chevrolet Aveo. A year ago, diesel vehicles comprised just 28 percent of the car market. That figure would be as high as 64 percent now, according to estimates by industry insiders.

When the price difference between diesel and petrol was 9 last year, 55 percent of Maruti’s customers preferred the diesel option in the segments in which India’s largest car maker offered that option. Today, when the difference between petrol and diesel prices is more than 20, 85 percent of them are opting for the diesel version. In the April to August period, Maruti sold about 4 lakh cars, with diesel models accounting for a little over a fifth of those sales.

Maruti offers diesel variants in four of its 12 models - the Swift, SX4, Ritz and Swift DZire. As Suzuki isn’t best known for diesel technology, it has partnered with Fiat for engine supply. In 2011 so far, three-fourths of the Swifts, three-fifths of the Swift DZires and two-thirds of the Ritz models sold have been diesel variants. In comparison just two-thirds of Swifts and under half of Ritz cars sold a year ago were diesel models.

Ford India, till around December 2010, sold around 55 percent diesel Figos. The figure now stands at 75 percent. VW, which bet on diesel early on in India, is reaping the benefits. All its cars in India are available in diesel, barring the Beetle. In fact, VW's sedan Passat is available only in diesel.

Toyota has just launched the diesel variants of the Etios sedan and small car Liva. “We have seen the market dynamics changing and the rapid shift toward diesel cars. Customers are gradually buying diesel despite the higher ticket price,” says Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director (marketing), Toyota Kirloskar. The share of Toyota’s diesel vehicles in its total sales in India has grown to over 70 percent in the past two months.

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