Maruti Suzuki India Ltd plans to sell 110,000 to 120,000 units of its latest offering S-Presso—an entry-level hatchback—in the domestic market over the next one year, according to an internal projection prepared by senior executives of the country’s largest carmaker.

The Suzuki Motor Corp. unit is betting on the S-Presso to regain its 50% share of the local market at a time when its sales are under strain because of an overall industry slowdown and new product introductions by rivals, said three people directly aware of the development.

Maruti Suzuki has witnessed a sharp reduction in wholesales, or industry dispatches, this fiscal through March. This led to a fall in its market share to 49.76% in the fiscal first half from 52.1% a year earlier.

The entry of Hyundai Motor India Ltd, the second-largest car maker, in the compact sport-utility vehicle segment with the Venue model and diminishing consumer preference for diesel engine products, has added to Maruti’s woes. Competition has also intensified for the company in the sedan as well as the multi-purpose vehicle segments.

The maker of the Alto and Wagon R models is now pinning hopes on the S-Presso to stage a recovery by drawing more customers in the entry-level small car segment, considered a bastion for Maruti in the past three decades.

The S-Presso would not only compete with small car models of Maruti but also of Hyundai Motor India, Renault SA and Tata Motors Ltd.

The first person cited above said the target set by the company is achievable despite the current industry downturn as Maruti is the preferred option for buyers in this segment, and the company can also tap its wide sales and service network.

“On the production side as well, the company is starting with a monthly production in the range of 10,000-11,000 units per month during the initial months which may be increased to 12,000-13,000 units in January depending on the demand and then will be reduced to 10,000 units in March," the person said. “The company also expects a significant part of its first-time customers to prefer the S-Presso over the Alto family."

Maruti Suzuki did not respond to emailed queries sent on 10 October.

The company has so far announced that it has received orders for 10,000 S-Presso cars in the first eight days of launch.

Puneet Gupta, associate director, vehicle sales forecasting at IHS Markit, said the S-Presso has several features and can be the choice of young families from smaller cities.

“Maruti Suzuki’s entry into the mini car segment with S-Presso will help the company regain its market share which it has been losing in the last few months. We feel mini car segment will be game-changer in the coming days as liquidity crisis had impacted vehicle sales and customers are cautious while spending the money and sticking to lower variants or lower product range," Gupta said.

To cope with the industry slowdown, Maruti has cut production for eight consecutive months to September.

The company’s wholesale dispatches fell 27% year-on-year to 663,522 units in the fiscal first half. Maruti’s wholesales fell as much as 53% in the entry-level hatchback segment.

“The S-Presso is the best bet for the company at the moment since the next year is likely to be tough. Also, Maruti does not have any new products in the near future. So, they will try to push this product as much as possible," said the second person cited above.

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