To launch 14 models in next five years, beef up sales and services network

Japanese carmaker Suzuki Motor Corporation will launch 14 models in India between now and 2017 as part of its efforts to stay ahead in the country’s intensely competitive car market.

The company’s subsidiary, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, has been around for nearly three decades and is the clear leader of the compact segment which accounts for over two-thirds of car sales. Some of its top-selling models include the Alto, the Swift and the Wagon R.

From Suzuki’s point of view, India is “the most critical region” in which it “will vigorously launch small cars”. This product blitzkrieg will also include SUVs which the company terms a “new genre of cars”.

All these details formed part of a presentation at Suzuki’s investor conference held at the Tokyo Motor Show last week. Product plans were formulated for Japan, China, ASEAN and Europe, though India is clearly the company’s most strategic market.

While Japan will see more launches (16) than India over the next five years, China and Europe will have seven products each and ASEAN (Indonesia and Thailand) will be slightly ahead with nine.

Market share

The targeted market share in India is 40 per cent for a good part of this decade, which is keeping in line with the present level. The rapidly growing middle-class, coupled with demand in Tier 2/3 centres, could help Maruti achieve this goal even as competitive models are coming in the small car space from rivals such as Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Ford and Volkswagen.

The strategy, according to the investor presentation, will see Suzuki launch at least one new model every year which will include sedans and SUVs. In addition, sales and services networks will be beefed up (one of the company’s biggest strengths in India). India will also play an important role for Suzuki’s new auto markets in West Asia, Africa and Latin America. The country already offers a robust supplier base with the best mix of quality and competitive costs.

Global models

In the case of Latin America, Suzuki plans to launch global models from India, Indonesia, Thailand and Hungary.

On the other hand, the West Asia and Africa markets will be solely serviced by the new India headquarters. All this puts in perspective Maruti’s global business model and the need to enhance capacity as a result. Yet its Japanese parent believes it needs to “proceed cautiously” in its Gujarat plant, given the current state of the market.

As part of its endeavour to develop more efficient products, Suzuki will consolidate automobile platforms. The three new lightweight platforms (mini vehicle, A and B segments) will be consolidated and new models will be rolled out next year. This will ensure versatility in vehicles while keeping costs under check and reduce product development cycles.

Suzuki is also looking at new engines where the focus will be on 660cc, 1000cc, 1200cc and 1400cc options.

The new 660cc engine has been installed on mass-produced cars (including the mini truck). The compression ratio of the compact vehicle engine has been increased and has been installed in the Swift model.

murali.gopalan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 25, 2013)
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