The Indian automotive industry has been witnessing a period of recovery and growth over the past couple of years. Every year, automakers look towards the government to provide a stimulus in the form of favorable policies and budget allocations, to spur growth in the sector. A week has passed since the announcement of Indian budget for FY 2018-2019. We take a look at its short and long-term impact across the automotive value chain.
Supply-side scenario (component manufacturers and OEMs)
The current Indian government under Prime Minister Modi has been focusing on promoting domestic production of automobiles and auto components, as a part of its “Make in India” campaign. A 5% increase in customs duty on imported completely knocked down (CKD) cars and automotive components for assembly and sale in India is seen as another step in this direction.
While international OEMs such as Volkswagen and Skoda have been left reeling under the burden of additional costs, this provides an opportunity to spur growth particularly in the domestic components manufacturing.
Another positive news for domestic automotive components manufacturers, most of which are small and medium scale enterprises, is the reduction in corporate tax rate by 5% percentage points (for companies with a turnover of under INR 250 Crores / USD 38.83 million). These tax savings can provide companies with additional capital to invest in their business, aiding their long-term growth.
Investments in road and rural electrification infrastructure also encourage OEMs to bring new products, particularly electric vehicle (EV) portfolio, to the Indian market. However, lack of an established EV infrastructure means that this market development is likely to occur only over a long-term horizon.
Demand-side scenario (individual and corporate consumers)
The key factor impacting the demand for automobiles is perhaps how deep the consumers’ pockets are (or can be) after bearing all the tax burdens – in other words, how high the disposable income is in India. This is even more relevant for the lower-end of the market (or the so-called “mass spectrum”).
Minimal income tax incentives to individuals, coupled with rising inflation, are likely to limit the disposable income of most people (particularly in the low and medium income brackets), which form the largest consumer base for automobiles in terms of volume.
A booming stock market in India attracted several consumers in the middle income group to invest their capital in equities. Levy of a 10% long-term capital gain tax (LCGT) on returns from these equities (although grandfathered till INR 1 Lakh / USD1,553) is likely to put even further pressure on consumers’ pockets, especially for those looking to finance their automobile purchases by getting the most out of their investments.
Moreover, the knee-jerk reaction to this year’s budget was also observed on the equity market. The negative sentiment has led India’s two leading stock exchanges – BSE and NIFTY – witnessing a 5% decline within a 7 day period from the announcement of the budget, thereby eroding consumer’s wealth, which may further impact consumers’ short-term decisions to purchase vehicles.
On the other hand, the support provided to the agricultural sector is likely to spur demand for tractors and small passenger vehicles in rural areas, however this demand growth is dependent on the agricultural output, and derived from it incomes, in the coming year.
Aftermarket scenario (recyclers)
For the past couple of years, automotive companies as well as aftermarket recyclers have been expecting the government to bring in the scrapping policy, which would allow consumers as well as OEMs to benefit from voluntary replacement and scrapping of vehicles older than 15 years. However, lack of any announcements related to this policy has left the aftermarket recyclers and OEMs disappointed. They will need to wait to tap the demand expected to come from voluntary replacement of old vehicles in exchange of monetary benefits.
The scenario for electric vehicles (EVs) looks bright over a long term with significant investments going into development of rural electrification infrastructure, which will impact the development of the EV ecosystem beyond the metros as well. OEMs look at this as an opportunity, and this is evident from the number of EVs and electric concept cars to be unveiled at the Auto Expo 2018, India’s largest automotive exhibition. However, in a short to medium term, the adoption of EVs is likely to be limited to the corporate sector. General mass adoption is likely to lag behind due to vehicles’ high prices, and limited distance range/capacities offered by the current EVs available in the market.
As the mass automobile demand is expected to remain lull in the short term, the market will be driven by luxury and premium segments, which is largely unaffected by the budgetary challenges. A push is evident from OEM-side as well, with a number of premium, high-end products (such as SUVs, large displacement motorcycles, and luxury vehicles) launched at the Auto Expo 2018.
While the budget has left a lot to be desired, there are positives which bode well over the long term. The market is likely to witness a downturn in demand over a short term, as the consumers are likely to turn to preservation of wealth till the negative market sentiment prevails. Moreover, as the government invests in infrastructure projects, demand for both commercial and private vehicles is likely to pick up in the future.
It remains to be seen how soon the market witnesses a recovery in terms of automobile demand. One thing is certain, as always, when the budget comes next year, expectations will be high, partially fed by this year’s disappointments.