Business – Q&A S.Nakanishi,MD & CEO,Maruti Suzuki
Chanchal Pal Chauhan
What is the big surprise for the Indian market as competition intensifies?
There are a lot of possibilities. The premium hatchback A-2 segment comprising of the Swift and Ritz is growing fast and possibly will emerge as the largest category in the next few years. We have to position cars in that league to excite customers to buy our cars.
What is Maruti Suzuki’s strategy for that?
We are setting up Maruti’s independent R&D facility, which should be the biggest outside Japan for parent Suzuki. It will help develop cars for the local market, keeping in mind expectations of Indian customers. The new generation cars will be fully developed in India and confirm to Indian tastes.
What kind of innovations could be expected?
As a market leader we have to stay ahead. While all other carmakers have copied our hatchback (Swift) to sedan (DZire) success story on the common platform , we may reverse the trend. Like our flagship sedan SX4 has a hatchback version in the developed markets and that possibility is not ruled out for the Indian market.
Does this mean that SX4 will have a hatchback variant here?
The Indian market is developed for bigger cars and customers like to be seen a big three-box car. Reversing the SX4 sedan into a hatchback might be tough. It could be taken differently. We will try to ascertain the market and customer mindset before taking any such steps.
But what are the plans to save your market share?
We will launch new cars in new segments to keep customers within our fold. The wide basket of products will have offerings in all the segment and while the entry level car Alto could be more price efficient. We are working with our component suppliers to get more economies in our components, the benefits of which would be passed on to customers.
Can we expect a locally made SUV from Maruti?
Nothing is ruled out. Any new product has to be based logically on right price and market demand. We have Gypsy but its has worn out over the years. We were considering assembling our compact SUV Grand Vitara in India but smaller volumes did not justify that. We have options to launch other small SUV Jimny, but all these options are still being worked out.
So you are targeting the multi-utility vehicle (MUV), the fast growing segment in India?
We have showcased the R3 concept on Tuesday. It will be one of the smallest MUVs in India and first car fully developed by Maruti. This new segment will help us garner volumes and maintain our market share.
With fuel efficiency playing pivotal role in success of cars, what kind of engines are being developed?
We have successfully launched our KB series engines which will eventually get into all our cars. I have been pursuing engineers to develop a diesel engine for the SX4, but no timeframe can be specified as of now. New diesel engines are also being developed by Suzuki in Japan, which are also expected to help Maruti to consolidate market share in India. Currently the 1300cc diesel engine being made under licence from Italy’s Fiat will cater to our needs.
Will the new arrangement with Volkswagen help Suzuki develop new engines?
There are a lot of possibilities, but we have to consider existing arrangements first. It is difficult to comment anything specific on this right now. But we shall discuss the options suitable for both the companies. Europe is our largest export market and Volkswagen’s strength in Europe will be of great help.
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