Tata Nano
An employee works inside the newly inaugurated plant for the Tata Nano car at Sanand in Gujarat June 2, 2010. Reuters

High interest rates, rising fuel costs and sluggish economic growth have driven India passenger car sales down 10.4 percent and van sales down 13.4 percent in April, according to figures released Friday by the country’s auto manufacturers' association.

Sales of SUVs increased 4 percent, but the overall decline of 8.2 percent marks the sixth consecutive monthly retreat and the longest period of contraction since the country began tracking monthly auto sales in 1997. April passenger car sales came in at 150,789 units last month, the worst April performance since 2002.

In the first monthly auto sales and manufacturing report in India’s 2013-14 fiscal year, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said Friday that auto production declined, too, by 2.8 percent to 1.68 million units.

On a brighter note, the association said sales of commercial vehicles, including auto rickshaws and passenger or goods-carrying lorries saw a combined average rise of 7.1 percent compared to last year. Truck and bus sales increased slightly by 0.8 percent.

The association still expects a 3 percent to 5 percent rise in annual auto sales for the current fiscal year. India bought 17.4 million vehicles last year, but most of those sales come from motorcycles. Indians bought only 2.6 million non-commercial cars last year, according to the SIAM.