M&M chief Anish Shah sees car sales reaching pre-pandemic levels only after two years

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) expects that it will take at least another two years for car sales to return to their pre-pandemic peaks, but a slow pace of vaccinations could hurt recovery prospects, M&M CEO Anish Shah has said in an interview. Battered by the pandemic in 2020 and an economic slowdown in 2019, passenger vehicle sales in India fell to 27 lakh units in FY21 – their lowest level in six years and well below the peak of 34 lakh units in FY20. 

Mr Shah has said that sales will rebound by FY23, if a majority of the country’s population is inoculated and new COVID-19 cases ease, helping the economy to recover. “Getting back to full normal is going to depend on vaccinations... (else) we will always have the fear of the next wave coming in and disrupting things again,” Mr Shah has added. 

The world’s second-most populous country has recorded 2.8 crore cases so far, second only to the United States. Infections have surged in recent weeks, and in May, India recorded its highest monthly COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began. Yet, only about 3 per cent of India’s 130 crore people have been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among the 10 countries with the most cases. 

Car sales had started to pick up in the January-March period, but a second, more deadly wave of infections forced lockdowns again. This time, consumer sentiment has taken a hit and discretionary spending is likely to take longer to recover.

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