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Alto sales fuel Maruti hopes
K Saito , Maruti director, marketing and sales, with the Swift in Calcutta on Saturday. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury

Calcutta, May 28: The sagging sales of the Maruti 800, the car that revolutionised the automobile market in India, is no longer a worry for the country's largest carmaker.

The company has redefined its entry-level segment by positioning the Alto along with the Maruti 800 and their combined sales act as the benchmark for Maruti's performance at the entry level.

Maruti 800 sales tumbled from 11,097 in April 2004 to 6,910 in April 2005.

'The sales of Maruti 800 cannot be taken in isolation. We have to see the combined sales of the Alto and the Maruti 800. As a company, we are happy as long as total sales are increasing,' Kinji Saito, director (marketing & sales) of Maruti Udyog Ltd (MUL) said today.

Initially the combined sales of the Alto and the Maruti 800 averaged 12,000 units a month with the Alto contributing only 2,000. Now sales of the Alto have gone up to 14,000 units while the Maruti 800 hovers around 8,000 units.

However, Saito clarified that the company would not let the sales of the Maruti 800 to dip further.

'There is no plan to phase it out. The penetration of car in India is 8 in 1,000. The future of this car is bright,' Mayank Pareek, general manager (marketing) told The Telegraph.

The price difference between the entry-level M800 and the Alto is about Rs 30,000.

For someone upgrading from motorcycle to a car, it could be a lot of difference, Pareek added.

He was confident that the upgraded Maruti 800 would boost sales of the entry-level car.

'Our strategy has been to keep at least two models in each segment. And it has worked so far,' he added.

Pareek hoped that Maruti 800 sales would stabilise at around 8,000 level. The first quarter is generally the worst for passenger cars while the fourth quarter is the best.

MUL had sold 5,36,301 cars in 2004-05, 13.6 per cent higher than the previous year. The company hopes to sell six lakh cars this year. It has about 55 per cent of the share in the passenger car market.

MUL officials were in the city to launch the Swift, its new generation car, in the local market.

Saito said the new car would bring in younger customers for the company.

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