All about Automobile Dealerships – Part 1

At Auto Punditz; we have extensively covered the performance of OEMs since the beginning and we now feel that somehow the frontline warriors of the respective OEMs needs to be covered as well. An Automobile Dealership, also known as a ‘Channel Partner’ is one of the most important part of the Automotive Industry and it needs to be recognized much more than it usually is. The reason the dealerships are termed as ‘Channel PARTNER’ is because they are equally responsible / partnered with the OEM to make a brand successful or not. The Channel Partners are the unsung heroes that take the brand promise of the OEM and deliver it to the end customer. The Automobile Dealerships are the link which can make an OEM’s brand image from ‘good to great’ or even make it ‘bad to worse’. Sales in today’s scenario is majorly affected by ‘Word of mouth’ and it entirely depends on the experience customer has with a particular brand. And the dealerships are the link between the Brand and the Customer which  Dealerships shall derive revenue from creation and sustenance of long-term
relationships with their customers. In automobile sales; the dealerships play an extremely vital role in delivering this ‘customer experience’.

We shall be covering the aspects of the automotive dealerships in multiple posts and thus named this as Part 1. We will be explaining the basics of the Automobile Dealerships in this post. An Automobile Dealership is an entity that sells new or used vehicles at the retail level, based on a dealership contract with an automaker/OEM. The OEM primarily scouts for businessmen in the respective territories who shall represent them by investment to open dealerships that shall provide sales/aftersales on behalf of the OEMs. The dealership post appointment by the OEM employs automobile salespeople to sell their automotive vehicles. It may also provide maintenance services for the vehicles, and employ automotive technicians to stock and sell spare automobile parts and process warranty claims.

An Automobile (Car) Dealership in India

Automobile dealerships are usually franchised to sell and service vehicles by specific automakers. They are often located on properties offering specified space to have buildings housing a showroom, mechanical service, and body repair facilities, as well as to provide storage for used or new vehicles. While dealerships are supposed to be in the city centers to attract higher footfalls; bigger dealerships are located out of town or on the edge of city centers.

While a typical dealership associated with any OEM is supposed to have 3S facility; i.e. Sales, Service & Spare Parts – One can associate with the OEM to be only to offer authorized service centers or even become a distributor for parts. In case of 2-wheelers / commercial vehicles; one can chose to be a sub-dealer as well who are either selected by authorized dealers or even OEMs. The sub-dealer concept allows the OEM to multiply its reach much faster.

Automobile Dealerships have always attracted a lot of interest from Businessmen across India. However; we would like to highlight the challenges that any businessman needs to consider prior to investing in an automobile dealership –

  • It is an capital intensive business: Lot of initial investment/capital will required to acquire or rent properties for Showroom, Workshop and even Vehicle Stockyard. Typically it can go upward to Rs.20 cr in case of a Car Dealership. Over and above this; once the business starts huge amount of money shall be required for carrying Inventory as well. For assumption: A Toyota dealer carrying a stock of 100 Innova’s shall have near to Rs.20 cr invested in stock alone*. And if this money is borrowed from a bank; interest needs to be payed as well for the stock until its cleared.
  • Low Margin Levels: Against the popular belief that Automobile Business offers extremely high margins; the margin levels are actually one of the least one can imagine. The Industry Average is ~3.5%-4% and can be extremely straining for the business if required volumes are not attained.
  • High Manpower Requirement: The business is highly manpower intensive and Automobile Dealerships in India as a business employ one of the highest in the overall industry. The number of manpower required to operate in Sales / Finance / Accessories / Insurance / Service / Bodyshop / Used Vehicles / Parts / Stockyard / Backoffice of a respective dealership can go upto hundreds! We shall study it in detail in our later posts.
  • Complicated Business: It is neither a tech oriented business nor requires any specific expertise. Due to its complicated dependency on multiple factors (margin from sales, allied business, after sales, parts, etc) and high fixed costs; any XYZ businessman cannot find success easily.
  • High Time, Management & Process oriented: One cannot manage the automobile business without spending adequate time as timely reviews and actions are very much required at various levels of the operation. The business also requires high amount of process orientation as well – Slightest indiscipline can collapse the overall operations or have an irreparable damage to the brand.

However; owning an automobile dealerships have been a matter of pride and passion for many businessmen who have entered the industry. The ‘Passion’ for automobiles and the ‘Obsession’ to create a customer-oriented environment differentiates a particular automobile business owner to another. The OEMs who are successful in identifying such businessmen and associating with them further accentuates the brand’s motive and presence in the market.

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Petrol v/s Diesel Sales 2019 – VW & Skoda


  • 83% of the Polo’s sold in 2019 were Petrols.
  • Over 56% of Vento sales came from Diesel variants. The trend is bit different from other cars in the segment which is dominated by Petrols (City / Ciaz).
  • Also 54% of Ameo sold in Petrol Avatars.
  • VW had launched Polo & Vento in BS6 recently; but shall be available in Petrol-Only variants! VW also announced discontinuation of 7-speed DSG transmission.


  • Almost 60% of Skoda’s sold in 2019 had a diesel heart. It is contrasting when compared to sibling VW which had only 33% share from diesel variants.
  • While Kodiaq was available in diesel only configuration; rest Octavia, Rapid & Superb were available in both Petrol/Diesel options.
  • Skoda’s bestseller Rapid had majority of the sales coming from diesel variants.

Petrol v/s Diesel Sales 2019 – Renault & Nissan

Renault & Nissan have a common manufacturing facility in India and even the models from the respective OEMs share a lot in common due to platform sharing. The same is almost visible in the Petrol / Diesel Sales Split as well. However; we would have expected Petrol models share in Nissan to be higher (as it includes the Datsun brand which sells Petrol only models); but the scenario is bit different then expected. Let’s see how the modelwise Fuel Split looks like –

  •  Diesel Contribution was majorly contributed (in terms of volumes) by the new model Kicks. Almost 69% of the models numbers came in from Diesel variants.
  • Terrano was the only Diesel-only model in the portfolio. However; Terrano could sell only 428 units in the entire year (approx 36 units per month average).
  • Datsun models were powered by petrol engine only and Datsun contributed over 70% of Nissan’s sales in 2019.

  • Renault as an OEM had the highest dependency on Petrol models in 2019! The primary reason was the best sellers from Renault were Petrol-only models (Kwid & Triber). Kwid + Triber combined contributed to over 87% of Renault’s sales!
  • While Lodgy was available only in Diesel configuration; majority sales in Duster & Captur were from Diesel variants.

Top 20 Exported vehicles from India in February 2020

While the domestic sales has been low due to negative market sentiments and BS6 transition; the OEMs have been focusing on exports to maximize capacity utilization of the plants. The Passenger Vehicle Exports saw a YoY increase of 9% in Feb’20 and the Two Wheeler Exports saw a double digit growth of 16% in Feb’20 v/s Feb’19.

Passenger Vehicle Export Statistics for Feb’20 – 

  • Ecosport was the highest exported vehicle from India in February 2020. The exports was almost flat for Ecosport in Feb’20 when compared to Feb’19. Ecosport exports alone accounted to over 15% of Passenger Vehicle exports from India!
  • The other Ford vehicle to fare in the Top 20 list was Aspire.
  • Nissan’s Sunny came second and grew a phenomenal 60% YoY. India was a big export base for Nissan / Renault – However; only 1 model each from Nissan & Renault came in the Top 20 list.
  • Vento was the highest exported model from VW’s portfolio and grew a healthy 29% YoY.
  • Chevrolet Beat’s export volume has staggered to <5k units and fell -25% YoY. General Motors decision to sell out Talegaon plant may be a primary reason for the same.
  • Kia made a strong presence in exports as well and exported over 3.5k units of Seltos in February 2020.

Two Wheeler Export Statistics for Feb’20 – 

  • Bajaj was nation’s largest Two Wheeler exporter and Boxer was the most exported marque. Boxer 100cc alone exported over 85k units and contributed to over 27% exports from the sub-continent.
  • TVS came in second with Star City (100 cc) and Star City 125 slotted itself in 3rd spot.
  • Infact; the Top 5 positions were from the products of Two Indian OEMs Bajaj & TVS.

57% of MG Hectors sold in 2019 was from Petrol Versions

MG Motors India sold 15,930 units of the Mid-SUV Hector in the year 2019 and over 57% of the sales came in from Petrol variants!

Morris Garages (MG) had launched its first offering Hector in the Indian sub-continent in June 2019 and has sold an average of 2,275 units/mth last year since launch. The car was pitted against the likes of Jeep Compass and Hyundai Creta where the diesel variants had a major pie in the overall sales.

The primary reason for Petrol variants getting higher acceptance is due to multiple options available for the model. MG offers Hector in 3 Petrol configurations – Petrol Manual Transmission, Petrol Hybrid Manual Transmission & Petrol DCT (Automatic). However; Diesel is available just in a Manual avatar. The bet played by MG worked well and 57% of the customers opted for the Petrol Hectors.

Similar trend was seen in Kia’s Seltos sales figures too. Near to 55% of Seltos sold were Petrols. Even Kia had special focus on Petrol Engine configurations where Tech line & GT line was offered to woo more customers. The higher acceptance for Petrol was pretty different when compared to sibling Creta’s case too. Petrol Creta’s were only 31% of Creta’s sales and Diesels contributed to 69% of overall Creta’s sales.