The Indian automobile sector on Monday reported healthy sales numbers for March as customers rushed to buy vehicles ahead of a price hike after the government raised the excise duty. The continuing demand for diesel cars and new models also boosted the offtake. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the budget for fiscal 2012-13 proposed to raise excise duty from 22 per cent to 24 per cent on petrol cars with engine capacity of under 1,200 cc and diesel cars with engine capacity under 1,500 cc whose length exceeds four metres. “We could meet our expectations in March as there was considerable interest to beat the expected price hike,” said Arvind Saxena, director, marketing and sales, Hyundai Motor India. Passenger car market leader Maruti Suzuki’s total sales in the period under review grew by 3.3 per cent at 125,952 units from 121,952 units in the like period of 2011. Domestic sales picked up at 2.1 per cent at 112,724 units from 110,424 units in the corresponding period of the last fiscal. The total passenger car sales in the period under review rose by 3.5 per cent at 98,758 units from 95,388 units sold in March 2011. However, for fiscal 2011-12, the company’s total sales including exports fell by 10.8 per cent at 1,133,695 units from 1,271,005 units in the last fiscal due to labour unrest, sluggish petrol car market condition and slower demand due to high cost of credit. The country’s second largest passenger vehicle manufacturer Hyundai Motor India too reported robust sales figures with an increase of 6.6 per cent in its monthly sales for March including exports which stood at 59,229 units from 55,552 units sold in the like period of last year. The company reported a healthy rise of 22.9 in its domestic sales in the period under review at 39,122 units from 31,822 units sold in the corresponding perod of last year.