Right after 1982, when Suzuki started business in India, we also aimed to enter the European market, with the goal to become the No.1 carmaker. At that time, most of the Western European countries had strong domestic automotive companies, so we had enough reason to focus on Eastern Europe. We had especially great interest in Hungary, a small country in the middle of Europe, with no relevant car industry, where our compact cars could be recognized as the people’s car, or “mi autonk” (our car), as they are now called in Hungarian. Those days, average Hungarians could only get cars like the East German Trabant or the Soviet-produced Lada, and they had to wait many years to get one. Therefore, we concluded that we had a good chance to quickly expand our sales if we started production in Hungary. In fact, we were convinced that our vehicles outperformed the old models made in the communist bloc countries.
Soon after starting discussions with the Hungarian government in 1987, the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, and in the turmoil of the political transformation, the government positioned Suzuki’s production project as a Hungarian national project. In addition, assistance from Itochu Corp. meant a significant help in establishing this special relation. It is not an exaggeration to say that this decision of the government tied our company’s destiny to Hungary. Looking back, our history clearly shows that Suzuki succeeded in overcoming many difficulties by building trust and bonds with local partners.
The Suzuki models that Hungarians like to call mi autonk are made in the city of Esztergom. In 2017, we reached 3 million vehicles made in Hungary since that start of the production. In 2018, we produced around 170,000 vehicles, 150,000 of which were exported to a total of 123 countries, most of them being sold in Europe. Ever since entering the Hungarian market, Suzuki cars have been among the most popular and top-selling models in Hungary. In the same year, with a 14 percent share of all vehicles sold, Suzuki has become a market leader in Hungary.
I truly believe this is a Cinderella story, of sorts, of how a Japanese car became the symbol of Hungary and the Hungarian industry. This special relationship shows that our investment decision roughly 30 years ago has been mutually beneficial for not only our company, but also for Hungary and the Hungarian people.