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Updated on: Sep 24, 2015
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Toshihiro Suzuki strikes the right note at Frankfurt Motor Show

Toshihiro Suzuki was the epitome of poise and confidence at the Frankfurt Motor Show. People at the event said the heir apparent of Suzuki Motor Corporation was unruffled during the media roundtable where he answered queries candidly and without beating about the bush.

It was barely three months ago when Toshihiro was designated Representative Director and President (COO) of a company where his father, the 85-year-old Osamu Suzuki, has had an overpowering presence for decades. The Frankfurt Motor Show was the first time he had an exclusive interaction with Indian journalists and most present felt he handled the Q & A session rather well.

Straight talk It was also a time when Suzuki had emerged triumphant in the stake war with Volkswagen where the legal verdict went in its favour. Toshihiro made it clear that the company had just come out of a divorce and there was really no compelling reason to go in for another alliance, at least for now.

He also emphasised the role of India in Suzuki’s roadmap for the coming years where Maruti would play a key part in servicing new regions like Latin America and Africa. On the face of it, Toshihiro had a clear vision for his company and its focus on fuel-efficient cars.

Yet, there will be a host of challenges ahead especially in an arena where mobility dynamics are changing by the day. Suzuki’s most successful outing has been in India where Osamu Suzuki was the pivot to its growth over the last three decades. At that point in time, his company had a successful partnership with General Motors globally and it was widely believed that this would extend to (the then) Maruti Udyog. The script, however, changed when GM acquired Daewoo and eventually exited Suzuki.

Now after the aborted alliance with Volkswagen, it remains to be seen if Osamu Suzuki would be open to roping in another ally for his company. His son made it quite clear that no such plans were on the anvil but auto industry observers believe that Fiat could be a hot contender for the future. The two already have a pact for diesel engines and there is just a possibility that Osamu Suzuki and Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, will explore a far more profound partnership.

Playing to the strengths Toshihiro does not believe that his company’s relatively small size is an issue but this may not hold true going forward. He will have every reason to feel upbeat about India where Maruti is the market leader by miles but rivals like Hyundai will pull out all stops to bridge the gap.

This is when a partner could come in handy for Suzuki especially if it means attaining scale as a means of survival in an intensely competitive global space.

For the moment, though, Toshihiro would have no reason to take his eyes off the ASEAN region, India and growth engines like Africa or Latin America. These are the markets of the future (in addition to China, of course) and Suzuki can pretty much hold its own even as a small player.

So long as the company remains profitable and plays to its strengths in compact cars, there is no immediate cause for concern. Osamu Suzuki, in his turn, will ensure that the company he so carefully nurtured for decades will not derail itself in a hurry. His experience will be the biggest pillar of support for Toshihiro Suzuki.

Published on January 22, 2018

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