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Suzuki, a global powerhouse


I was recently invited by Suzuki Motors South Africa to get a closer look at the giant that is Maruti Suzuki India and to find out just why it is the largest automaker in the country.

There is no doubt that India is fast becoming an economic powerhouse. It is the world’s third largest economy, and home to some of the big­gest telecommunications companies in the world, metal and gas refineries as well as textile industries, including one of the largest automotive manufactur­ing operations outside of China. It is expected that by 2020, it will be the third largest passenger car market in the world.

India is not an overly wealthy country, but being there and experiencing the culture, the people and the food is truly special. They are a nation on the move with booming businesses from the smallest one-man-operation to the big corporate giants.

Cars however are a new concept. While some were being imported into the country for the rich, a scooter still served as transport for the average fam­ily who simply could not afford a car. This changed when India started producing its own cars for the general population. At the end of 1983, Maruti Suzuki, initially an importer, produced its first car.

Driving in India is also quite an interesting affair with many first time car owners having previously owned a scooter. This means that the same driv­ing habits seem to filter through. Expect three lanes to turn into six. Every gap is taken and don’t be surprised to see a car coming in the opposite direction on the road. Oh, and people tend to use their hooters, a lot. It’s how drivers communicate with everyone around them.

Nothing however happens at more than 80km/h. Anything faster than that and you are probably the only car on the road which is unlikely. This means that unlike us, Indian drivers don’t de­sire speed and performance. They prefer comfort, features and value for money.

Fast forward to 2018, and Suzuki holds around 50% of the Indian automotive market. Let me just put that into perspective for you; in 2017, total passenger car sales from all manufacturers sat at around 3.2-million sales. Suzuki made up 1.4-mil­lion of the total sales.

Suzuki also sold close to a million more vehicles than its closest competitor. It currently has four cars in the top five and seven in the top ten sales charts. It is immensely popular due to its value for money, wide range of products and after sales service. Currently, Suzuki produces 16 models with 150 variants in total, and has won 16 JD Power awards in a row.

In order to reach customers, Maruti Suzuki India has around 2 020 dealers and 3 300 dealers owned workshops with around 40 000 sales staff across the country. They have also implemented a used car section because it has currently been somewhat unorganised. Used cars equate to around 300 000 units per year.

In order to satisfy such a demanding market, Maruti has set up three factories around the country; Gurgaon, Manesar and Gujarat with seven production lines and an eighth on the way. They also have the only Suzuki R&D test track outside of Japan.

Maruti Suzuki is the only producer of the Baleno which they export to Japan amongst other countries. It also operates in fifty of the 54 African countries with combined sales of just under 250 000 units and growing rapidly.

This massive market share and reach equates to a sales figure of around $10-billion (R121-billion) and a profit of just over $1-billion (R12-billion). It is however the people employed by Maruti Suzuki that makes the company. Much like the Suzuki South Africa team, the Indian team is extremely passionate about their brand and products. This can be seen with their customers as well. Having dominated the Indian market for well over 30 years now, Suzuki has shifted their focus to Africa. How does this affect South Africa?

Well, we also have many people that can’t af­ford a brand new car. Many young people in South Africa desire freedom and mobility, but don’t have the means to buy a car. Suzuki is determined to offer value for money mobility for South Africans with quality products and service, with a few new models heading our way this year, the most impor­tant being the new Swift.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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