By on June 9, 2012

India is touted to become one of the biggest car markets in the world by the end of this decade. However, there is a lot of uncertainty in the Indian automobile market. Fuel prices fluctuate (usually northwards) abruptly, while the Government tries to cover its mis-governance by increasing taxes on cars when its least expected. But which is the car that Indians are buying the most? It is the Maruti Suzuki Alto!

The Alto used to sell around 35,000 units earlier, but in the last two months, its sales have declined massively to 17,842 units in April and 20,724 units in May. The sales decline is because the Alto is offered with gasoline engines only. The demand for gasoline powered cars is fast decreasing in India. Diesel fuel is heavily subsidized and hence people are opting for diesel cars.

Mind you, the Alto is not the Alto that you see in Europe or Japan. The Indian Alto is the last generation Alto, which is still on sale with some cosmetic changes. The new Alto has been re-badged as the A-Star in India. So, the Indian Alto is a very old car, low on safety, low on space, but still the highest selling car. The reason is the Maruti Suzuki badge, which the Alto carries. Maruti Suzuki (a tie-up between Maruti [local] and Suzuki [Japan] in the early 1980s, but now Suzuki has a majority stake) has been present in India since a long time. There is a vast dealership network. The Alto is a well established brand and is the second cheapest car in the country (the cheapest car is the Tata Nano).

As you can see, the interiors of the Alto are terrible. The rear seats are best for children and the front seats are best for short passengers. The vehicle pictured here is the top end model, which accounts for less than 30% of the Alto’s sales. The more popular model carries a 2-spoke steering wheel and a basic instrument cluster (no tachometer). Power comes in from a 796cc, 3-cylinder, gasoline engine which produces 47 BHP and 62 Nm. The more powerful version uses a 998cc, 3-cylinder gasoline engine to produce 67 BHP and 90 Nm. Fuel efficiency is around 20 km/l (47 MPG Non-EPA). The 800cc Alto is priced at $5,500, while the 1000cc Alto costs $7,300.

The Alto has no safety features on offer, there are no ABS, Airbags, etc. The only safety feature is the engine immobilizer. Still, the Alto sells like hot cakes, which clearly shows that pricing and economy are still the two important parameters a majority of first time car buyers look out for, at least in India.

Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of, a website covering the auto industry of India.

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7 Comments on “India’s Best-Selling Car – Maruti Suzuki Alto...”

  • avatar

    Just a quick note expressing my appreciation for your coverage of a market under-served in the West.

    • 0 avatar


      I would also love to see you do a road trip with a subsequent write up.

      BTW, why do almost all the trucks in India have a ok to honk horn type message on them?

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks Angrystan and Ben. Will definitely do a road trip article soon.

        The messages on the trucks such as “Horn OK Please, Move For Side” etc are because the truck drivers are very casual and never really see their mirrors. So you honk to get a side.

  • avatar

    Hmm… I don’t think the Alto looks THAT cheap… of course, MY first car was a 1958 VW Beetle: no gas gauge (you used a measuring stick, which one would dip into the tank), basic AM radio, no safety devices, plastic and metal interior… But… it was fun to drive and cute, if not very safe. I think small, stylish, three cylinder vehicles COULD work in North America, if petrol continues to rise in price… much like the successful Suzuki/Geo Metro 3-cylinder mini-car, which still sells quite well in the used market. The biggest competitor for cheap new-car dollars is the used car market… and, now that used cars are only 10% less than new cars, an affordable, cheap mini-car would be a breath of fresh air! Too bad the Alto (and the Nano) aren’t US legal, because both have a certain practicality, a frugal-yet-well-designed quality about them. Put a 2CV-styled or retro body on either, and either could be the next “people’s car”.

    • 0 avatar

      Jeffzekas, agreed it does not look that cheap but sit in it and you will see the terrible quality, horrible built and the age old chassis. The Alto is not sold in the world anymore, it has been replaced by the new Alto, which is the A-Star in India.

  • avatar

    The most fun I’ve ever had in a car was in a 86 Suzuki Mighty Boy. The Mighty Boy was a tiny ute based on the second generation Alto. It had 22kW and weighed 560kg. I’m guessing this is based on the third generation Alto but if it is anything like my favorite little ute its a lot of fun to drive.
    The Mighty Boy I drove was the runabout for a small car yard. Its special feature was being light enough to physically manhandle into the tightest spaces, useful when the yard was absolutely packed with stock.

  • avatar

    Indian car nice more than other cars, im using Indian car from long long time.noticias automotivas it is very easy to maintain, and its com potable, parts are very cheep. Maruti Suzuki Alto selling points have long included a low price and good fuel economy. this models, currently in its seventh generation, was first introduced in 1979 and has been built in many countries worldwide. The Alto badge has often been used on different cars in Japan and in export markets. any way i love too much this cars. The Alto badge has often been used on different cars in Japan and in export markets. if you want see more details log on to noticias automotivas you can find all about Maruti Suzuki Alto……….

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