Indian automobile manufacturers are keen to expand their market share in Bangladesh after posting steady sales growth in the last couple of years, thanks to rapid economic growth and a rise in purchasing power.
Indian passenger vehicles, mainly sports utility vehicles (SUVs), witnessed an average sales growth of 20 percent in Bangladesh in the last three years despite the dominance of Japanese reconditioned vehicles.
The share of Indian automakers in Bangladesh's brand-new car segment reached almost 35 percent in 2018, according to local distributors.
Talking to The Daily Star, officials of Indian automakers and local distributors, who are taking part in a four-day Indo-Bangla Auto Show in International Convention City Bashundhara of the capital, said the automobile sector in Bangladesh was thriving alongside economic growth. “The middle class who likes smooth travel in their daily life prefers Indian Suzuki cars due to its fuel efficiency and low maintenance cost,” said Khaan M Sakib Us Salehin, deputy general manager for sales of Uttara Motors, the sole distributor of Suzuki India.
According to him, the demand for Indian Suzuki cars would gradually increase as people have come to know that the automaker uses Japanese technologies.
He said that their sales growth was 18 to 20 percent over the last five years while their annual growth target was 30 percent.
Salehin said customers could purchase Suzuki's brand new 1,500cc hybrid cars with automatic transmission within the range of Tk 22 lakh to Tk 24 lakh.
He further said they were offering three years' after sales service warranty while managing bank loans for customers.
Uttara Motors sold five units of a newly launched hybrid car at the fair, he said.
Md Shafiul Abedin Khan, deputy manager for sales of Rancon Autos, the distributor of Mahindra and Mahindra, said customers who want to buy SUVs at the price of a Japanese sedan prefer Mahindra cars due to its cheap price and fuel efficiency.
He also claimed that Mahindra was improving its automobile technologies rapidly to fulfil demands of customers.
Top officials of corporate houses, banks, foreign non-government organisations and directors of government development projects are the main customers of SUVs of Mahindra and Mahindra, Khan said.
Top officials of corporate houses who want SUV facilities at competitive prices prefer Mahindra cars, he said.
Mahindra is showcasing all flagship models in the passenger vehicle category which are sold in Bangladesh, including the Maxximo HD and BOLERO PIK-UP and SUVs like the TUV300 and Bolero Power Plus.
Sanjay Jadhav, vice president and head of international operations, Mahindra and Mahindra, said over the last two decades, Mahindra has established a strong presence in Bangladesh with trusted partners and a range of new-generation products.
Intending to introduce the Mahindra car as a local vehicle in the coming days, he said to have already roped in Pragati Industries, a state-run car assembling plant.
Rohit Kumar Mandal, deputy manager export (sales and marketing) of MRF, said the tyre manufacturer sees a bright future for business in Bangladesh.
MRF has been present in the Bangladesh market for more than two decades with its entire range of products, starting from the smallest scooter tyre to the largest off-the-road ones.
Abdul Matlub Ahmad, chairman of Nitol Niloy Group, the sole distributor of Indian automobile giant Tata Motors, said Indian automobile manufacturers captured the commercial vehicle segment with reliability.
He was also optimistic about the passenger vehicle segment of Indian cars.
If the government formulates a policy for establishing four-wheeler manufacturing plants, prices will ultimately come down and the market will boom, he said.
In this regard, Sugata Sen, deputy director of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, said Bangladesh needs to set up manufacturing plants for rapid development of the automobile industry.
Trading does not bring significant development for the sector and does not generate employment opportunities and skilled manpower, he said.
“It is the best time for Bangladesh to set up manufacturing plant considering the automobile sector's growth,” said Sen, adding that Indian automakers were ready to help Bangladesh establish completely knocked down alongside manufacturing plants.
Even automobile component makers are looking for partners to set up plants in Bangladesh, he said.