BOMBAY -- Tata Motors Ltd., India's largest truck maker, said on Wednesday its quarterly profit more than tripled as truck industry sales soared, powered by rising government investment to build a national highway network.
The company is also the country's largest maker of buses and the third largest producer of both cars and utility vehicles.
Sales were further buoyed by a shift in demand from older two-axle vehicles to larger multi-axle trucks, which can match the railways in freight costs, and by rising car demand, spurred by a tax cut and lower interest rates.
Tata Motors, part of India's second largest business group, the Tatas, said net profit rose to 2.07 billion rupees ($45.6 million) in the fiscal second quarter ended September 30 -- from 588 million rupees a year earlier.
Net sales rose 46 percent to 37.63 billion rupees. Other income soared to 277.6 million rupees from 39.9 million rupees.
But its operating profit margin, a key measure of efficiency, merely inched up to 13.82 percent from 13.26 percent in the preceding quarter, although it was much higher than last year's 12.08 percent.
Tata Motors, which mainly competes with Ashok Leyland Ltd. in the world's fifth biggest commercial vehicles market, said its sales of trucks and buses combined in July-September jumped 57 percent from a year ago to 40,225 units, outpacing industry growth of 42 percent.
Sales of cars and utility vehicles rose 29 percent to 37,903 units, faster than industry sales of 23 percent.
Tata Motors posted losses in fiscal 2000-01 and 2001-02 due to a cyclical decline in its mainline truck business and poor initial sales of its Indica hatchback, India's first homegrown car launched in 1999.
But sales of both trucks and cars have rebounded since then.
Thirteen companies, including Maruti Udyog Ltd., a unit of Japan's Suzuki, Hyundai and General Motors make cars, vans and utility vehicles in India, a market expected to touch a million vehicles this fiscal year.
Tata also is poised to improve foreign sales. In the past quarter, Britain's MG Rover Group began buying its Indica cars for sale in UK and also expects to buy bankrupt South Korean firm Daewoo Motor's truck unit by the end of 2003.