Monday, April 7, 2008

Suzuki Motors to launch 'world car' from India

Suzuki Motors' next world car will come from its Indian venture at Gurgaon, near Delhi, by the end of 2008, Shinzo Nakanishi, managing director of Maruti Suzuki India, has said.

"The new model will be launched by the end of 2008," he said. "To begin with, we have plans to export 100,000 units of the new model annually to Europe and the rest of the world," Nakanishi told IANS in an interview.

The Manesar plant at Gurgaon was set up under a joint venture company, called Maruti Suzuki Automobiles India in which Maruti Udyog Ltd holds 70 percent equity while Suzuki Motors of Japan holds the remaining 30 percent.

The total investment in the new car plant was Rs.15.24 billion ($384 million). The capacity of the plant will initially be 100,000 cars per annum, with a potential to scale it up to 250,000 units.

"I believe that Maruti Suzuki is ready to play a much bigger role in Suzuki's global operations, and my task is to make that happen," said Nakanishi, who took over as managing director Dec 19 last from Jagdish Khattar.

"Today the company's manufacturing capability has reached a level where we want to make small cars exclusively in India for exports to the European markets."

In fact, Maruti Suzuki has created a new record in 2007-08 by selling 764,942 vehicles, the highest ever in its history, marking a 13.3 percent growth over the previous fiscal.

The total sales figure of 764,942 includes export of 53,024 vehicles, again the highest since it started production in 1983, and marked a growth of 34.9 percent in its exports.

A member of Suzuki Motor's board of directors worldwide, Nakanishi expressed confidence that the auto major would be able to "maintain its leadership in the Indian auto market".

Suzuki currently holds a 54-percent stake in Maruti Suzuki India.

"Of the three million cars that Suzuki wants to sell worldwide, almost 30 percent would have to come from Maruti Suzuki India," Nakanishi explained.

He said that in the recent past, Maruti Suzuki has started sharing its good sales and service practices with other Suzuki companies worldwide and this flow would gain further momentum in the coming few years.

"A 50-percent-plus market share - and we are leading in terms of sales growth and customer satisfaction. As for the future, we are focused on the goal of achieving one million domestic sales by 2010-11," he said.

"This will require us to expand capacity and continuously upgrade manufacturing facilities, for which we have already announced an investment of Rs.90 billion ($2.3 billion)."

Expansion of sales and service network is also under way for achieving the target of manufacturing one million cars, Nakanishi added.

Asked about the company's global strategy in the wake of the changed scenario in the automobiles sector, Nakanishi said Suzuki Motor has embarked on a strategy of "World Strategic Models" to drive its long-term growth.

As part of this strategy, the company has been developing "global models which are European in overall styling and design, and carefully modified to suit local markets".

"What this means is that the Indian customers get international levels of quality and design. Specifically for India, 'Splash' and 'A Star' models will be introduced here as part of our overall World Strategic Model approach."

Asked about the dip in the sales of its popular people's car Maruti 800 and any possible plan to phase out the car, he replied there were no plans as such "in the immediate future".

According to the latest figures released by the company entry level Maruti-800 recorded a dip of 12.2 percent in its sales over 2006-2007.

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