We plan to launch new scooters and bikes above 125cc: Suzuki Motorcycle MD

Koichiro Hirao, Managing Director, Suzuki Motorcycle
Domestic sales at Suzuki Motorctycle India have risen over six per cent to 651,293 units between April 2019 and February 2020, from 610,091 units during the same period last year, even as demand slumped across the industry. The firm's market share in two-wheelers has gone up from 3.09 per cent to 3.94 per cent during this period, according to SIAM data. While it too has been impacted by the Coronavirus spread, Koichiro Hirao, Managing Director, Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd in an interaction with T E Narasimhan says that the company plans to strengthen its portfolio in India. Edited Excerpts:

How has Covid-19 impacted your manufacturing? Will it delay your product launches?

Yes, of course. SMIPL has suspended production at its manufacturing plant in Haryana till further notice. We have taken all measures to ensure the well-being of our employees and have issued a 'Work-from-Home’ advisory to our staff and associates who aren't involved with maintaining essential services.

While the entire two-wheeler market is declining, how did Suzuki manage to increase sales and market share?

The SMIPL’s growth momentum is attributed to our growing primary and secondary network. However, it is not only the increased footprint that has contributed but in most of our strong markets also we have registered growth over last year. We attribute this to increasing brand acceptance for our products and the strong customer connect our dealers have been able to establish with our customers.

While all our products are gaining traction in the market, a large part of our growth is attributable to our increased participation in the scooter market. The Suzuki Access 125 is fast emerging as a category leader. We have also got incremental volumes through our premium Burgman Street scooter which has also been gaining popularity across the country.

What is your urban-rural sales mix?

We do not distinguish between rural and urban customers. Instead, we prefer to put our efforts to develop a particular geography brand, based on customer preferences for scooters and premium motorcycles in that particular area. While we are continuously working on increasing our geographical footprint, our strongest markets continue to be the South and West.

What is Suzuki's product strategy? Will it focus only on scooter or will give a thrust to bikes as well?

Suzuki globally has been known for performance-oriented motorcycles. Moreover, we believe that inherently, the Indian customers’ preference is visibly shifting towards performance motorcycles. By virtue of our basic capabilities, we feel we are well poised to cater to this demand. In order to strengthen our motorcycle portfolio, we have entered the 250cc segment this fiscal, with the launch of Suzuki Gixxer 250, which has received overwhelming response. The Suzuki Access 125 is the best-selling scooter whereas Burgman Street has been our relatively recent premium offering in the scooter space, which has been gaining popularity.

We are planning to continue consolidating its scooter offerings in times to come. Moreover, in line with our forte of designing and manufacturing value packed performance oriented motorcycles, we plan to introduce some new scooters and motorcycles in greater than 125cc category in times to come. We are also closely working with SMC, Japan to develop electric two-wheeler for Indian market though there is need to go long way in terms of developing infrastructure and technology for EVs in the country.

What is the split between your bikes and scooters?

At present, our scooter to motorcycle split is around 90:10. With the introduction of the All New Gixxer Series earlier this year and our heightened efforts however, we aim to achieve a ratio of 80:20 in the next financial year.

Any plans to invest further in India?

Since SMIPL’s entry in the India in 2006, we have invested Rs 1000 crore for product and infrastructural development. At present, our manufacturing plant at Village Kherki Daula in Gurugram, Haryana has a production capacity of one million units per annum. Once we attain the maximum capacity, we will take necessary steps to ramp up the production capacity.

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