CPPR, Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments the boom in vehicle sales could hit the public transportation culture in the state in a news article published in The New Indian Express.

Perhaps, it is the desire to own a new set of wheels. Maybe, it is the lack of enough public transport or safety concerns associated with using them. Whatever the reason, the automobile sector seems to be bouncing back from the lull caused by the pandemic, with vehicle sales in the state picking up gradually.

Data from the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) shows that 8,774 new vehicles, including 7,110 two-wheelers and 1,495 four-wheelers, were registered in the state in the first week of June. In comparison, April, the month immediately after the nationwide lockdown, saw only 2,302 vehicles being registered. In May, it increased to 15,121. While the average number of registrations in a week is still miles away from last year’s 18,750, the rise in sales during the pandemic has given hope to manufacturers and dealers.

“New vehicle registrations in the state are showing an upward trend after three months. However, it is too early to say they have reached normal levels,” said Rajeev Puthalath, Joint Transport Commissioner. He said the unavailability of public transport and safety concerns may have led to the increase in registrations. “We need to analyse the data of the coming months to get a clear picture,” Puthalath said.

Somi K Cheruvathoor, vice-president (Sales), Popular Vehicles and Service, said compared to last year, they were seeing a 30-40 per cent increase in sales. “The number of people approaching us for booking vehicles has doubled too,” he said.

He said though public transport has partially resumed, many people have safety concerns and are not willing to travel in a bus or train. “We believe safety is a major factor in the increase in the number of bookings,” Somi said.

Managing the crisis

Some dealers managed the crisis during the lockdown by bringing out a special action plan. Eldo Benjamin, vice-president (Sales and Marketing), Nippon Toyota, said despite the Covid-19 threat, the company achieved 60 per cent of its sales target in the first quarter of this financial year. “We used the period to connect with customers using digital technology and training our staff for the purpose. Due to this, we received a large number of bookings,” Eldo said.

The relaxations by banks and non-banking financial firms also helped the automobile sector to bounce back. “Nearly 70 per cent of our vehicles are sold through EMI. The relaxation in norms made purchasing a vehicle possible for just a meagre amount. This too led to the quick recovery of the sector in the state,” he said.

The downside

Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) D Dhanuraj said the boom in vehicle sales could hit the public transportation culture in the state. “Several bus operators have discontinued services. This is the time that the government should provide them tax relaxations. Else, most of the people will gravitate towards private vehicles which will lead to environmental issues,” he said.

This news article was published in The New Indian Express on June 12, 2020. Click here to read

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