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Honda beats Tata Motors, Toyota Kirloskar to finish fourth

NEW DELHI: The slowdown may have taken away the excitement in car showrooms, but there is a lot of action for the number four slot. 

In May, it is 
Honda that has beaten Tata MotorsBSE -1.21 % and its Japanese rivalToyota Kirloskar to finish fourth. While the podium positions remain the same — Maruti SuzukiBSE -3.20 % at pole position, followed by Korean player Hyundai Motors and homegrown Mahindra & Mahindra. 

Honda's ascendance has been driven by the launch of Amaze, its first diesel car, and a rival to market leader Maruti Suzuki's Swift DZire. Of the 11,342 units sold by the company in May, 6,036 were Honda Amaze. What has helped its cause is a smaller gap between diesel and petrol prices, giving a boost to the sales of its sedan, Honda City, and Brio, the compact car, which do not come with a diesel engine variant. 

While the going may be good, Honda may not be able to accelerate significantly given that it does not have sufficient production capacity with the Greater Noida factory able to manufacture 10,000 units a month. The company, which is slated to drive three new cars next year, is fast working on speeding up production at its factory at Tapukara in Alwar, Rajasthan. 

"We are on a strong comeback in the market," says Jnaneswar Sen, Senior VP (sales & marketing) at Honda Cars India. "Our strong numbers in May are not a one-month fluke, and we are confident that these volumes are maintainable and can be grown further as we get more capacity and products." Honda plans to drive in the new-generation Jazz hatcback, a new City sedan and an all-new seven-seater multi-purpose vehicle next year. 

While the going may be good for Honda, the original number three — Tata Motors — keeps slipping in the rankings. In May it finished fifth, just ahead of Toyota Kirloskar. In fact, a few months ago, it had lost to Toyota but managed to overtake it last month. 

At one point, Tata Motors was the country's second-biggest passenger vehicle maker but has now turned into a struggling company, trying hard to maintain a standing among rivals. The company's products fail to enthuse buyers despite the renewed thrust on budget car

Overall, the car market sentiments remained weak in May as well. Maruti Suzuki, the topmaker, lost out 13% in the month and sold 77,821 units while Hyundai had to make do with a growth of 0.3%. Analysts and company executives said a good monsoon and a gradual softening in interest rates can see buyers come back towards the end of the year.