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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 6:58 am

India car sales drop for 1st time in a decade

By KAY JOHNSONAssociated Press

Car sales in India fell by 6.7 percent in the past year, the first decline in a decade for the country's once-booming auto industry as it grapples with a wider economic malaise.

About 1.9 million passenger cars were sold domestically in the 2012-13 fiscal year that ended last month, compared with 2 million the previous year, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said in a report Wednesday.

The association blamed weak consumer confidence, high interest rates that made car loans more expensive, and a slowing economy for the drop.

It's the first fall in car sales since 2002-03, said association spokesman Bisham Rai.

The slump in sales reflects the wider slowdown in Asia's third-largest economy. India's government has forecast the economy to grow at a decade-low 5 percent in the fiscal year that ended March. Rapid growth in automobile purchases has been a leading symbol of Indians' rising spending power as the economy clocked growth of 8-9 percent in recent years.

Last year's domestic car sales were lower than production of 2.4 million vehicles, but an increase in car exports filled the gap. The manufacturers association said that about 545,000 cars were exported, up 8.6 percent over the previous year.

Total vehicle sales, which includes vans and utility vehicles, were up 2.2 percent from the previous year. That gain reflected a 52 percent surge in sales of utility vehicles to 553,000.

Total vehicle sales nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012. In the 2011-2012 year alone, they grew 28 percent.