Mumbai: India’s top car makers reported an 11.72% growth in sales in March, boosted by strong semi-urban and rural demand. The top five passenger car makers—Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Tata Motors Ltd, and Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd—sold 240,850 units during the month, up from 215,576 units a year ago.

Auto makers in India count dispatches to dealerships as car sales. It is typically observed in March that auto firms dispatch more to their dealerships in a bid to liquidate unsold stock before closing accounts for the fiscal year.

Volume growth marginally surpassed analysts’ expectations as demand from non-metro geographies rebounded strongly post the low of demonetization, an analyst said.

“Since the past two to three quarters, we have seen significant traction coming back from the rural markets. They will continue to drive volumes ahead," said Subrata Ray, senior vice-president and group head (corporate sector ratings) at Icra Ltd.

However, if one looks at company-wise data, car sales growth has been markedly stark this month.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the country’s largest passenger car maker, reported a 15.01% jump in sales from a year earlier to 133,481 units, led by growth across segments.

The utility vehicle (UV) segment led the way with a 24.3% jump to 22,764; driven by sales of Vitara Brezza and S-Cross models.

Sales of old workhorses Alto and WagonR rose 21.1% to 37,511 units while the compact car segment comprising the Baleno, Swift and Ignis hatchbacks also boosted sales with a 13.5% rise over the year ago to 68,885 units.

Maruti has sustained a positive growth trend during the month, as it has during the fiscal, on the back of well-planned model launches that helped take its market share over 50% this fiscal, said an analyst on condition of anonymity.

“No other OEM (original equipment manufacturer) has been able to time and understand the Indian car buyer like Maruti has," this analyst added.

Hyundai clocked 48,009 units in sales, a 7.27% rise over the year ago, on the back of strong models such as the Verna sedan and Creta. The local subsidiary of the South Korean automaker posted its highest-ever domestic volumes at 5,36,241 units, a growth of 5.2% during this fiscal.

Sales at Mahindra came in at 26,555 units, a 4.04% rise over the year ago. Rajan Wadhera, president of the automotive division at M&M, is confident of increasing market share in the UV segment on the back of three “critical" launches lined up during fiscal year 2019.

During fiscal year 2018, the Mumbai-based auto conglomerate sold 549,154 cars, an 8.2% rise over the year ago, selling over 500,000 units after a gap of five years, the company said in a press release on Monday.

Tata Motors posted a 31.3% rise in sales to 20,266 units during the month on the back of increasing demand for SUVs Nexon and Hexa as the utility vehicle segment grew by 223%, showing a trend of growing customer base for the segment, the company said in a press release on Sunday.

Demand was also driven by the Tiago hatchback and Tigor compact sedan, but the overall passenger car segment declined by 4%, the company added.

Fiscal year 2018 was a roller-coaster ride for the automobile industry. Even as the lows of demonetisation were beginning to wear off at the beginning of the fiscal, the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) put the brakes on sales mid-year. Nevertheless, sales of passenger cars and utility vehicles grew at a healthy pace, clocking low double-digit growth.

Going forward, Icra has forecast a 9-10% growth in passenger vehicle sales for fiscal year 2019, Ray said. New model launches, in addition to sustained demand from non-metro areas, are expected to drive volumes for auto OEMs, he added.