By on April 16, 2011

After Iran last weekend and Russia two weekends ago, we continue on our whirlwind round the world adventure, and stop in India.

Car sales in India grew a massive 31 percent in 2010 to reach 1.87 million units. Itis expected to rise a further 20 percent in 2011. The Indian market is fascinating because:

  1. Market growth is not synonymous with increased fragmentation and therefore a lot of models beat their volume records month after month
  2. The car landscape is totally unique and mostly composed of cars designed specifically for that country, like the Tata Nano and Toyota Etios …
  3. They mostly speak (a kind of) English, so we understand them (if they speak slowly.)

Now if the thought of crazy Indian traffic is too much for you to bear, that’s ok because there are 153 more countries to explore in my blog. You will enjoy it as much as a long, happy, dancy Bollywood song, like this one.

But before we start, a must-see, the best (Indian) action movie ever? You be the judge.

Alright then, the Indian market since 1950 can be summarized in 3 models:

The Hindustan Ambassador was market leader from 1950 to 1984.

The Maruti 800 followed from 1985 to 2004.

The Maruti Alto has been leader until now.

(For those of you that have not learnt their international car brands lessons for today, Maruti manufactures and sells Suzuki models in India and still accounts for more than 45 percent of the market – by far Suzuki’s best market in the world, and the envy of all car maker who want to be somebody in the world’s next China.)

Just to confuse you a bit, the Maruti Alto is not the current Suzuki Alto sold around the world (that model is sold as the Maruti A-Star in India). The Indian Alto is the previous generation Alto, and there are two versions sold side by side at the moment: The ‘standard’ version, a few years old, and the facelifted K10 version. The addition of the K10 model has sent sales of the Alto skyrocketing:

It was the first model to sell more than 30,000 units in a single month in India last September with 30,147 sales. Since then, it has beaten that record 3 times in November 2010, January 2011 and March 2011 with 38,065 sales and it’s only a matter of months before the Alto sells upwards of 40,000 monthly units in India. In 2010 the Alto was also the first model to sell more than 300,000 vehicles in a single year in India. This year it looks like it could well go above 400,000…

Top 15 best selling models in India in 2010:

Pos Model 2010
1 Maruti Alto 300,950
2 Hyundai i10 159,158
3 Maruti Wagon R 156,509
4 Maruti Swift 142,549
5 Tata Indica 104,841
6 Maruti DZire 103,306
7 Maruti Omni 92,539
8 Hyundai Santro 87,800
9 Tata Indigo 85,201
10 Mahindra Bolero 78,895
11 Hyundai i20 71,849
12 Maruti Ritz 68,359
13 Ford Figo 59,967
14 Tata Nano 59,576
15 Maruti Eeco 58,656

Now something you may not have known until you studied the table above is that the second most prolific ‘Indian’ car manufacturer behind Maruti is … Korea’s Hyundai. All Hyundai models sold in India are built in India and some are even exported from there. The Hyundai i10 in particular follows a format very popular in the country called ‘tall boys’: short, tall cars that can fit a family – a bit like Kei cars in Japan.

The Hyundai i10 finished last year in 2nd place in the models ranking with nearly 160,000 sales, by very very far its best market in the world (it is not even sold in South Korea!!). In the same category, the Maruti Wagon R follows closely (and has nothing to do with the Suzuki Wagon R sold in Japan).

Another Maruti/Suzuki model that performs extremely well in India is the Swift, selling over 10,000 units in 11 of the last 12 months. It is number 5 in 2010 at 142,549 sales.

Now a bit of a treat: only in India, the Maruti DZire, 6th best selling car in 2010 (103,306 units) is in fact a Swift with a trunk! And no, we aren’t talking elephants. Clearly not much time has been spent designing (deziring?) the car as it is probably one of the ugliest on sale at the moment…or not? You tell me:

Now to 2011, and as far as this year is concerned in India, there are 4 things you need to know:

1. The Ford Figo is making Ford a mass brand in India

After many attempts at cracking the Indian market, it looks like Ford has very curiously found the right formula, by releasing a 1999 Ford Fiesta disguised as a ‘new’ model called the Ford Figo… Launched in March 2010, the Figo broke into the Top 10 for its very first month of sales and has reached a best ever 6th place in March 2011 with a record 8,926 sales. Numbers that Ford would only dream of achieving a few years ago…

2. The Tata Nano is not dead

The Nano was supposed to make the car accessible to the Indian masses and sell a million units a year. Well, we are far from that figure but contrary to common perception the Nano cannot be called a flop (yet). Its death looked very real last November when it sold only 507 units in the whole country, but since then Tata has been working extra hard to rebuild the quality reputation of the car and has made financing more readily available. The result is a Nano climbing the sales ranking again: it was the 7th best selling car last month (and Tata’s best seller) with 8,707 units changing hands, its second best ever month.

3. Volkswagen is having a ball with the Polo and Vento

The last generation Polo and its sedan version, named Vento in India, are great successes in the country and have both reached their best ever volumes last month: 3,973 sales for the Vento (#19) and 3,881 for the Polo (#20). Last month’s figures were of particular significance for the Vento: for the first time it has passed the Honda City which had been the category leader for the last 13 years! And yes, you did read right: In India, the Vento is based on a Polo, as opposed to the other Ventos that were Jettas or Boras that were based on a Golf. Volkswagen does that just to throw us off.

4. Toyota looks like it’s on the right track with the Etios


Last December, Toyota launched its first all-Indian car, the Etios, and it has been gearing up in the ranking very steadily since. From 407 sales in December it went to 1,651 in January, to 2,786 in February and 3,257 in March, in 23rd place. Still far from the Top 10 but local car experts say Etios sales are only limited by production capacities and should increase by a significant margin as the factory reaches full throttle during the year.

Top 15 best selling models in India in March 2011:

Pos Model Mar
1 Maruti Alto 38,065
2 Maruti Wagon R 14,885
3 Hyundai i10 14,215
4 Maruti Swift 12,114
5 Maruti DZire 10,278
6 Ford Figo 8,926
7 Tata Nano 8,707
8 Mahindra Bolero 8,237
9 Hyundai Santro 8,026
10 Maruti Omni 7,808
11 Hyundai i20 7,655
12 Tata Indigo/Manza 7,197
13 Tata Indica 6,937
14 Maruti Eeco 6,608
15 Maruti Ritz 6,059

Now you can consider yourself an Argentina, Libya, Brazil, North Korea, Spain, Yemen, Russia, Iran and India car expert. Yep! And thanks to who? I know. You’re most welcome.

That’s all for today! But wait there’s more:

If you want to check out the Top 40 best selling cars in India in March 2011 they are here: India March 2011. There is even a table that visualizes the sales evolution of each Top 40 model over the last 15 months (go to the link above and click on the blue link below the VW Vento pic).

For the super car nerds among you, you can check out all about Indian cars sales since 1950 here: India Historical Data and 2010-2011 monthly articles here India 2010-2011

Okay fine I’ve heard many of you ask, so I give you one more Bollywood video for the road. One of my favorites and probably the only one entirely filmed on a train:

The sales figures sources are and SIAM.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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4 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Indian Consumers Love Their Bollywood And The Maruti Suzuki Alto...”

  • avatar

    Ford isn’t the only US automaker that’s beginning to make an impact in India. Ahead of the Honda City and mixing it up with the Polo, Vento and Etios, are the Chevrolet Spark and Beat.
    March ’11               YTD


    VW Vento



    VW Polo


    Maruti SX4


    Chevrolet Spark


    Toyota Etios


    Chevrolet Beat


    Maruti A-Star


    Maruti 800


    Honda City


  • avatar

    Would a Hindustan Ambassador appease a Studebaker Dictator?

  • avatar

    I read somewhere that Hindustan were building the 79 Holden ToranaUC/Vauxhall Victor using an Isuzu diesel engine for a power plant as well as the 58 Oxford pictured, it seems these guys can resurect any extinct model,

  • avatar


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