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India Full Year 2014: Datsun Go underwhelms in market back up

The Datsun GO sold 13,079 units in 10 months in India.

* See the Top 20 best-selling brands and Top 50 models by clicking on the title *

After surprisingly halting by -7% in 2013, the Indian new car market is back in positive territory in 2014, up  3% to 2,540,750 deliveries to dealerships – Indian data isn’t end-consumer sales. This is the 2nd best year of sales for India below the 2.65 million units it hit in 2012. Note this doesn’t include LCV sales. Local manufacturer Maruti Suzuki is slowly but surely driving towards 50% market share, going from 43.1% in 2013 to 45.3% this year thanks to sales up 8% to 1.152 million units. Hyundai also gains almost one percentage point of market share at 16.2% and 411,456 sales while Mahindra painfully drops 14% to 8.2%.

The Maruti Alto celebrates 10 consecutive years in the Indian pole position.

Honda is the best-performing manufacturer in the country in 2014 with sales up a gigantic 67% to upgrade up to 4th place overall with 7.1% share, due to the runaway success of the new generation Honda City, up 259% on the old model to break into the annual Indian Top 10 for the very first time at #8. It even peaked at #5 in July, becoming the most popular Honda nameplate of all times in India. Notice also Fiat up 41%, Audi up 8% to a record 10,851 units and Mercedes up 13% to an all-time high 10,201 sales.

The Honda City peaked at a best-ever 5th place in July.

The Maruti Alto celebrates 10 consecutive years in pole position in India with stable sales year-on-year at 264,544 units. It was beaten twice this year though and dropped to third place in May for the first time since June 2004. Big event in 2nd and 3rd place overall: both the Maruti Swift DZire and Swift pass the 200,000 annual unit-milestone for the first time this year, the only nameplate to ever have done so in India along with the Alto. After ranking #1 for the first time in May 2013, the Swift DZire repeated that feat twice in 2014: in May and July to finish the year at a record 2nd place, exchanging positions with the Swift. The Maruti Wagon R at #4 makes it 4 Marutis in the Top 4 for the third year in a row and also narrowly breaks its annual sales record at 159,269 units.

The Hyundai Grand i10 is the best-selling foreigner in India in 2014.

For its first full year of sales, the Hyundai Grand i10 replaces the Hyundai Eon to become the most popular foreigner in India – albeit produced locally, more than doubling its 2013 score to 103,749 units. It was however outsold by its big brother the Elite i20 towards the end of the year so another passing of the relay could be in the cards for 2015. The Maruti Celerio is the best-selling all-new entrant this year, missing out on a Top 10 ranking by 1.500 units at #11 and 67,616 sales, followed by the Hyundai Xcent at #15 and 51,614 units.

Datsun is hoping the GO+ will be better suited to the Indian market. 

There is an Indian elephant in the room: the Datsun GO. It is always heartbreaking when a new launch starts well before slowly falling apart, but this is essentially what happened to the GO in India this year. India was where the Datsun brand would begin its revival in one of the most anticipated debuts of 2014. Unveiled with great fanfare by Carlos Ghosn in New Delhi in July 2013, the GO never managed to break into the monthly Top 20, peaking at #22 and 2,695 deliveries for its 2nd month in market in April before crashing down to just 800 units in July and a miserable 453 in December. The GO is dead, long live the GO+? Datsun is hoping its new MPV will have a better chance at climbing the Indian sales charts.

The Datsun GO launch in India was underwhelming.

That the Indian consumer has rejected the Datsun GO as fiercely as it did the Tata Nano a couple of years back is in itself a fascinating insight into this market, where the car is still a status symbol. Nissan failed (so far) with the GO for the same reason Tata failed with the Nano: the ultra low-cost concept doesn’t work in India. Even though it took engineering prowess to lower the price of the Nano to US$1.500 and the GO to US$5.000, most potential first car buyers in India will opt to wait a couple more years so they can afford a ‘proper’ car that will cost them at least double the price. This is not to say low-cost will never work here, but two resounding flops in a row will ensure most manufacturers shy away from trying the same experiment any time soon. More on this here: STRATEGY: Understanding the Indian car market, an article I wrote at the time the Datsun GO launched in India.

Previous post: India December 2014: Tata Bolt and Datsun GO+ land

Previous year: India Full Year 2013: Maruti Alto #1, Swift, DZire and Wagon R break records

Two years ago: India Full Year 2012: Maruti Swift and DZire beat records

Full Year 2014 Top 20 brands and Top 50 models vs. Full 2013 figures below.

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