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Road to polls is filled with utility vehicles

S. Muralidhar

Industry sources said electoral compulsions have led to Governments buying utility vehicles to augment services rendered by the local administration and police forces.

Chennai , April 7

ELECTORAL compulsions are having an unexpected impact on the sales of passenger utility vehicles. In the run-up to the election, the massive electioneering exercise that each of the major national and local political parties are involved in currently has meant a sharp increase in the need for reliable and comfortable people carriers.

While vehicles like mini-buses could have fitted the bill of political parties, they would not be as comfortable and capable of navigating the narrow, `kutcha' roads in the hinterland, where campaigning has been the fiercest.

This is where the passenger utility vehicle rolls in. Compact and as comfortable as a sedan, utility vehicles such as the Toyota Qualis, Maruti Gypsy, Mahindra Scorpio and the Tata Sumo have been in great demand during the last few months.

Utility vehicles (UVs) have also been popular for this type of application since, in addition to their ability to seat over five passengers comfortably, there is also ample room for carrying personal baggage and electioneering material.

Industry observers point out that UVs, which usually come with sidesteps and foot rests, also allow bodyguards and personal assistants to accompany the politician travelling in the vehicle.

These advantages have been reason enough for a surge in sales of UVs during the fiscal gone by.

Of course, a portion of the jump in UV sales has also come from an increase in demand from individual car buyers and sales to fleet owners and local Government bodies like the police and municipal corporations.

UV sales have also been fuelled by the ongoing BPO boom.

Auto industry sources said that electoral compulsions too have led to State Governments buying UVs to augment services rendered by the local administration and police forces.

According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the total number of passenger UVs, including premium UVs, for the 11 months ended February 2004 was 1,28,700.

This represented a growth of about 31 per cent over the sales during the corresponding previous period.

Mahindra & Mahindra has reported the highest increase in sales for 2003-04.

At 91,436 UVs, sales in the fiscal just ended were up more than 32 per cent over the previous fiscal's sales of 68,858 units. Sales of the Scorpio alone totalled 23,976 units in 2003-04.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor, which manufactures the Toyota Qualis, has also reported a 12 per cent increase in the sales of the vehicle at 31,898 units for 2003-04.

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