File photo: Maruti’s shares rose 2.1 per cent to Rs5,586 at the close in Mumbai, after tumbling 16 per cent in July. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd reported the biggest decline in sales in almost seven years as a slowdown in consumer spending, the largest driver of growth in the $2.7 trillion economy, became more pervasive.

Total sales dropped about 34 per cent from a year earlier to 109,264 units in July, according to a statement on Thursday. Deliveries of its hatchback models fell 23 per cent, even as sales of the premium Ciaz sedan jumped to 2,397 units from 48 a year earlier.

The worst drop in sales since August 2012 at the unit of Suzuki Motor Corp indicates that the slowdown in Asia’s third-largest economy may be worsening, as the ongoing credit crisis prompts creditors to go slow on granting new loans. Maruti’s shares are down more than 40 per cent from a record reached last July.

“There has been no improvement in demand for autos,” said Teresa John, economist at Nirmal Bang Equities Pvt. “That means consumption in the economy is still sluggish.”

Rivals also reported a drop in demand. Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd said vehicle sales fell 15 per cent, while deliveries of tractors dropped 12 per cent. Commercial vehicles sales also sank. Ashok Leyland Ltd, India’s second-largest maker of trucks and buses, reported 28 per cent drop in dispatches, and Eicher Motors Ltd, the local partner for Volvo Group, posted a 32 per cent reduction.

The government’s annual budget last month lacked specific measures to help companies, leaving the Reserve Bank of India to do the heavy lifting to boost economic growth from a five-year low. The central bank has cut interest rates three times this year.

“The industry needs stimuli to help revive demand and conversions,” Veejay Ram Nakra, head of sales & marketing at Mahindra’s automotive unit said in a statement.

The slide in car sales adds pressure on Maruti Suzuki to come up with newer model to take on challenge from rivals including Kia Motors Corp and SAIC Motor Corp, which recently entered the world’s fourth-largest automobile market. Hyundai Motor Co. has also been eating into Maruti’s market share with new cars.

“Maruti Suzuki also suffers from a stale portfolio,” said Deepesh Rathore, a London-based director at consultancy Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors. “There are limited buyers in the market and they are more inclined to new, exciting products like the Hyundai Venue.”

Maruti’s shares rose 2.1 per cent to Rs5,586 at the close in Mumbai, after tumbling 16 per cent in July.

Passenger vehicles sales fell 18 per cent in April-June over the same period last year, according to lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.