India car sales jump 23%

MUMBAI, March 9, 2011 (AFP) – Car sales in India jumped nearly 23 percent in February from a year earlier, industry data showed Wednesday, as customers snapped up new models in a booming auto market where loans are cheap. The Indian market, Asia’s third-largest, is projected to triple over the next decade to six million cars a year from the current two million, according to industry estimates. Sales last month climbed 22.6 percent to 189,008 cars from 154,132 a year earlier, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

Motorcycle sales in the same period grew by 21 percent to 776,051 units from 642,419, while sales of commercial vehicles — a key economic indicator — grew by over 10 percent.

India has turned into a major battleground for global vehicle manufacturers such as Ford, Renault-Nissan, General Motors and Volkswagen, which have all launched new models in the country.

Easy availability of finance and new models have kept vehicle sales growing strongly, but analysts say sales of cars could moderate in coming months, with interest rates and fuel prices expected to rise in the near-term.

Passenger and commercial vehicle sales have been on the rise as India re