Suzuki shifts into overdrive in Indian car market


Despite intensifying competition, Suzuki Motor Corp. won’t give up its 55 percent share of the market in India without a fight, company Chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki vowed Wednesday.

“We are not going to give up 50 percent market share so easily,” the 77-year-old Suzuki told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, located in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

Suzuki said the competition in the Indian market has grown increasingly fierce over the last 25 years. “Twenty-five years ago, the battle was among kindergarten students,” he said. But things changed in 1995 when the auto market was liberalized and global automakers began entering the market. “But we are 25 years old, and now we have the ability to fight back.”

Suzuki took the plunge into the Indian market in 1982 with an investment in a joint venture company, which it made into a subsidiary by increasing its stake to 54.21 percent in 2002.

The automaker expects ¥3.5 trillion in global sales for the business year through next March, with exports and overseas manufacturing accounting for 70 percent.

Ten years ago, Suzuki sold 330,000 units in India alone. The figure is now expected to more than double to 730,000 units in 2007, he said.

Suzuki plans to shore up sales in India, which is nine times more populated than Japan, by boosting the number of dealerships in India to about 1,000 from the current 400 to 500, according to Suzuki Senior Managing Director Shinzo Nakanishi.

Referring to the plan by Indian auto giant Tata Motors to launch models priced at $3,000, the Japanese company chief said he is cautious about only focusing on low-priced cars.

Suzuki said it will also beef up local research and development efforts by increasing local employees to 1,000 in India as well as surrounding countries, including Sri Lanka.