NEW DELHI: It’s official — India is no longer a small car market, and the country is in love with SUVs. More than half the passenger vehicles sold in September, as well as the July-September quarter, were SUVs that commanded more volumes than the cumulative might of hatchbacks and sedans.
The strong showing — perhaps for the first time ever in India’s automotive history — displays the growing fondness and craze of Indian buyers for SUVs, which are available across price points and brands, and have one of the strongest line-ups in the broader car market.
With sales of 87,720 units in September 2021, SUVs outnumbered the passenger cars category –– comprising hatchbacks and sedans — by a large distance as the latter could only sell 64,235 units in the same month.

And the trend was equally strong during the second quarter of 2021-22 — SUVs sold 3,67,457 units while passenger cars added up to 3,43,939 units, according to data sourced by TOI from SIAM, the industry lobby group.
So what’s fuelling the trend? The fall in prices of SUVs over the past few years — as companies adopted the body style even when it came to small cars (which attract lower GST rates) — and the broadening road and highway network across are pushing demand for the vehicles that have better ground clearance and relatively modern and robust design cues.
Prices of mini SUVs such as Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger begin at under Rs 6 lakh, while the sub-Rs 10 lakh category has strong models such as Maruti Brezza, Kia Sonet, Hyundai Venue and Tata Nexon.
The surge doesn’t stop here: popular models above Rs 10 lakh include Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Mahindra Thar, and MG Hector. And the craze keeps on getting stronger even as the prize shoots up multi-fold or by several lakhs of rupees — demand remains equally robust for luxury off-roaders from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Land Rover, and even the Lamborghinis and Porsche, many of whom are priced upwards of Rs 1 crore and are even stocked out.
While automobile puritans remain critical about the popularity of small-sized low-powered SUVs — since they lack the traditional “heavy off-roading go-anywhere” features such as 4X4, water-wading capabilities, high torque and traction control — others do not agree much with the argument.
“It’s the overall packaging that matters the most. SUVs give you the best value for money when it comes to style quotient, visibility, power, and cabin space. They provide command and control on the road,” says Ravi Bhatia of auto research firm JATO.
Shashank Srivastava, director (marketing & sales) at Maruti Suzuki, says that the trend is not just confined to India, but is more or less a global shift. “The trend is across the world. In fact, if you look at markets such as China, the US, and countries in Latin America and Europe, the share of SUVs is around 45-50% to overall sales. India had been a late starter, but has been gaining swiftly,” Srivastava says.
He says that the fall in prices of SUVs have meant that they are now poaching customers from both hatchbacks and sedans. “There is now a huge price overlap of SUVs with premium hatchbacks and premium sedans. Customers who never considered buying an SUV previously are now looking at the vehicles since they are within their reach in terms of pricing and options.”
Companies have clearly read the trend, and thus most of the new launches are in the SUV category. Recently launched SUVs include Mahindra’s Thar and XUV7OO, Skoda Kushaq, VW Taigun, MG Astor, Hyundai Alcazar, and luxury ones such as Audi eTron series and Mercedes GLS Maybach.
Recently, Anand Mahindra was gushing on social media as his company’s new launch XUV7OO managed a mega 50,000 bookings — signifying a value of Rs 10,000 crore — in just two rounds of sale. “The customer enthusiasm is staggering,” Mahindra says.
The “coming-soon” list remains equally strong with models such as Tata Motors’ Punch, Audi’s new-generation Q5, Q3 and Q7, Citroen’s localised C3, and luxury electric Model3 from Tesla and XC40 Recharge from Volvo.
Martin Schwenk, MD & CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, says that demand has been phenomenal. “Our SUV portfolio has seen an unprecedented demand and has been on longer waiting lists… The SUV portfolio is waitlisted across markets, while the waitlist for the GLS extends up to six months, underlining the growing penchant for luxury SUVs.”
Hyundai, which is now the leader in the Indian SUV category, says that an SUV fulfils a customer’s desire for a vehicle that offers an array of features that include safety, comfort, technology and performance. “As the trend for segmented lockdowns and work from home has been prevalent, customers are also looking at breaking the monotony with leisure trips and getaways, fulfilling the desire to have SUVs.”




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