The Indian car market saw a definitive swing towards diesel cars last year with buyers preferring the more expensive variants due to increased petrol prices. With repeated increase in petrol prices, demand for diesel cars increased at such a rapid pace that carmakers were soon struggling to manage the demand. But the fairy tale story of diesel cars in India appears to be coming to an end.
While many thought the high demand for diesel cars would mean long waiting periods, it has turned out that eight of the top 12 selling diesel cars have virtually no waiting periods. The slowdown that hit petrol car sales has now started affecting diesel cars too.
The slide in demand could have started from March when the government increased excise duties on cars. Carmakers had also increased diesel car prices in January due to increased manufacturing costs. While many thought the high price difference between petrol and diesel would help maintain high demand, the real story appears to be different now. Carmakers are now reporting reducing demand even for the best selling diesel cars.
Ford India chief Michael Boneham has recently stated that waiting periods for Ford's diesel cars had come down drastically and some models were virtually available off the shelf with no waiting periods. Another shocking revelation from Mr Boneham was that discounts and other offers which were so far limited only to petrol cars were now available with some diesel cars too. Major carmakers such as Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Toyota and Ford have been offering several freebies to sell their petrol cars.
The reason behind some diesel cars' waiting period coming down could be due to the fact that carmakers have pushed up their production to meet demand. Maruti Suzuki has boosted diesel engine production and is also buying engines from Fiat. Hyundai and Ford have also increased diesel engine production.
Some of the models with low or nil waiting periods are the Maruti Suzuki Swift, Toyota Etios, Hyundai i20, Volkswagen polo and Vento and Mahindra's Scorpio and Bolero. Maruti Suzuki's Swift DZire and Hyundai's Verna whose diesel variants had waiting periods of more than six months can now be bought within two months.
However there are still some cars that continue to maintain long waiting periods. The Mahindra XUV 500 and Maruti Suzuki Ertiga have waiting periods close to six months. The XUV's waiting period is expected to come down slightly by September as Mahindra is planning to increase its production to 5,000 units per month.
The good news from all this is that if you are planning to buy a diesel car and were put off by the long waiting periods, it is possibly the right time to book your new car.