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How Maruti got down to making Vitara Brezza a reality

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 19, 2018

Highlight: The Vitara Brezza will be launched at the Delhi Auto Expo

CV Raman, Executive Director, Engineering, Maruti Suzuki

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Indian R&D aims to improve skills to levels of Suzuki worldwide

It was in 2012 when Maruti Suzuki was given the mandate of designing and developing a compact SUV for India.

As part of this effort, the top priority was to reach out to prospective customers and find out what they wanted. As CV Raman, Executive Director, Engineering, recalls, it was also a big step forward in terms of changing customer perspective about Maruti in the SUV space.

A fortnight from now, Raman and his team will be unveiling the result of their untiring efforts at the Delhi Auto Expo. From Raman’s point of view, this effort is particularly memorable since it was for the first time that the Indian subsidiary had been entrusted with the responsibility of developing something from scratch. Suzuki’s manpower was busy with product and engine development elsewhere in the world and the onus was on Maruti to more than do its bit.

For the R&D team, following the Suzuki development process while meeting its engineering test standards was a new experience.From the parent company’s side, access was made available to its wind tunnel and rust endurance facility in Japan.

Raman says that the biggest challenge was to work within the sub-four metre framework. It is this length that qualifies for lower excise duty which is critical in a price-sensitive market like India. Yet, this was not the easiest of tasks when it came to planning overall design with length staying constant.

Other areas like ground clearance and an upright seating had to be factored in to the creation of the Brezza. Bold styling and a dynamic side profile are the key characteristics of this compact SUV. During its development, there was concurrent work happening between manufacturing and product engineering.

Target

An aggressive SUV “which appears masculine with design as the differentiator” was another important priority.

The goal was to make it appealing to the young and Raman believes the end product reflects the growing maturity of Maruti’s R&D base. During the last 15 years, it has worked on the core design of Swift as well as the Alto model change apart from constantly pushing the envelope on fuel efficiency, a key USP for Suzuki.

Raman is confident of the Brezza but will wait for the market to react to it. It remains to be seen if there will be a mindset handicap when it comes to Maruti playing the SUV game though industry observers do not subscribe to this.

“Given the tremendous reception to most compact SUVs, there is no reason why the Brezza will be the exception to the rule,” avers an auto sector official.

The experience, however, is something that Raman (and his R&D team) will cherish for long. From his point of view, the goal is to take capability and efficiency levels in India to the levels of what Suzuki engineers possess worldwide.

If the Brezza clicks, it could mark the beginning of Maruti’s journey in more independent product development programmes. After all, India is the most important market for Suzuki and will now need to focus on servicing other regions like Latin America and Africa.

Flash back

In an earlier interview, Raman had indicated that the way forward for the R&D team would require a lot of effort and change in mindset.

The R&D centre at Rohtak is a top-class facility and product development will happen at a faster pace as Maruti goes global.

“I think it is a great opportunity for engineers over the next three years as more facilities emerge here. The work we do will also require building a pipeline of people,” Raman had said. The downside, though, is that there is a long period for engineers to develop their capabilities and retaining them will be a challenge especially with each project taking nearly four years to complete.

Published on January 21, 2016

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