April of 2020 was an unprecedented month for India as a complete lockdown owing to rising cases of Covid-19 took firm shape. Among the many sectors severely affected by the pandemic and consequent national lockdown was the auto industry here that not only saw factories come to a screeching halt but sales fall to a deafening silence. Subsequent months of last year saw a remarkable resilience with sales across segments picking up but the spurt in positive cases in recent weeks may once again cast doubts on the process of recovery.
The first phase of national lockdown in the country had been imposed in the last week of March in 2020 but its impact on the auto industry was most felt in April when sales were either zero, and literally at that, or very and precariously close to it.
While factories remained shut and dealerships closed down, people - the prospective buyers - too remained indoors. All of this contributed to what was indeed a pulverizing blow to the auto industry as a whole. This includes the component business as well which saw delays as well in the times since lockdown restrictions began to be eased.
But once restrictions were eased in a phased manner, normalcy too appeared to return gradually. The festive period was a shot in the arm, in particular, while there have been multiple reasons to cheer for various sub-sectors. Some car makers have even reported record sales.
Just as the rays of hope began shimmering in, dark clouds on the horizon have taken shape yet again with India recently adding more than a lakh cases in a single day. The vaccination drive in the country is on in full-swing even if it is currently for people above 45 years of age. But states and cities are moving forward to clamp down, some even announcing night-time curfews.
Industry watchers mostly agree that a nationwide lockdown is not likely at the least. But many also agree that the spurt in positive cases could be a blow to industries which had been severely affected by the pandemic but had begun recovering. The Indian auto industry could well be one among these.
A rising preference for personal mobility in pandemic times is likely to keep wind in the sails but given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the uncertainties remain aplenty.