Suzuki Motorcycle bucks slowdown, eyes double-digit sales growth in FY21

Suzuki Motorcycle India, the two-wheeler arm of Suzuki Motor Company, is eyeing double-digit growth in sales during the financial year 2020-21. 

It expects to end the ongoing financial year with a 7.5 per cent increase in sales over last year, said the company’s top officials.

The growth will come from volume ramp up of newly introduced BS-VI compliant scooter models such as the Burgman Street and Access Gixxer series of motorcycles as well as greater focus on motorcycles, they said.

Though on a low base, it comes at a time when rest of the two-wheeler makers are staring at a decline in sales. They do not expect volumes to pick up for another three quarters, that is, before the festive season.

Unlike most peers at rival two-wheeler companies, Koichi Hirao, managing director at Suzuki Motorcycle India, is confident of the road ahead. And for a reason – after years of struggle in a highly-competitive market, dominated by four companies, things have started looking up for Suzuki. Amid one of the most prolonged slowdowns facing the automobile market in India, Suzuki Motorcycle has seen a consistent gain in market share and volumes since the last three years.

Its share in the segment has inched up to 3.88 per cent in the first 10 months of financial year 2019-20 from 1.90 per cent in FY16. Volumes in the same period have grown to 592,646 units from 313,000 units.

Hirao attributes the success to the change in tack in terms of products and network strategy.

“We attribute this success to the connect with buyers we have managed to establish,” Hirao told Business Standard on the sidelines of the Auto Expo in Greater Noida earlier this month.

His company was the lone two-wheeler maker in the mass segment to participate in the show. The slowdown pains forced others, including market leader Hero MotoCorp, to give the show a miss.

A strategic call three years ago to vacate the mass commuter motorcycle market (110 cc) and instead focus on the so-called performance segment (150 cc and above) also helped. 

“We realised, globally, we are known for performance products. Hence, we will rather focus on that and moved out of the commuter segment,” said Hirao. The turnaround efforts gathered momentum after launch of the new generation Access scooter.
An exit from the commuter segment meant the company no longer needed to have a very strong presence in rural and semi-urban markets. Hence, it reworked network strategy and expanded it in areas which mattered, said Devashish Handa, vice-president, sales and marketing, at the firm. The network has grown to 520 now from 300 in 2016 and close to 70 per cent of sales now come from the urban markets, he said.

Meanwhile, Suzuki is looking to reduce dependence on scooters and sees the ratio between scooters to motorcycles settle at 80:20 in the next one year from the current 90:10.

Though Suzuki Motorcycle has a long distance to cover to catch up with bigger rivals, including TVS and Bajaj, the consistent increase in volumes has given it a lot of confidence. 

The overall two-wheeler market, in the first 10 months of the current financial year, has contracted to 1.5 million units from 1.8 million units in the corresponding period.

“We were not on the growth path earlier. We have seen double-digit growth in the last three years. Most of the growth in the months ahead will come from the Gixxer series – 150 and 250,” said Handa.

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