Suzuki's cruising plans: 'Let's' wait and see

Even as Suzuki Motorcycles India Ltd (SMIL) is marking its renewed foray into the scooter segment with the launch of the stylish Let’s last month with a national target of 1 lakh scooters planned to be sold annually, the company is acutely conscious of the need to balance out its sales chart in the highly competitive motorcycle market.

 Talking to Ravi Menon of Deccan Herald, SMIL Executive Vice-President Atul Gupta is hopeful that the ratio of scooter to motorcycle sales will change as the company increases its dealership touchpoints from 600 to 1,000 in this fiscal year:
What are your launch plans in the current fiscal? How will you take on market challenges from Honda and TVS going ahead?

We plan to launch two new products during the current fiscal. We recently launched the Let’s, our 110-cc scooter. This marks Suzuki’s entry into the 110-cc segment. Let’s is powered by a light, compact, fuel efficient 110-cc engine with cutting edge Suzuki Eco Performance technology – delivering a class leading 63 kmpl and pick-up. Its 98 kg light and compact body makes it easy to handle and far easier to park.Suzuki is well entrenched in the 125-cc scooter segment with the Swish and the Access. In addition to launching new products, we also plan to refresh our existing products.
You had launched the 110-cc Let’s scooter targeting the urban youth. Let’s has indeed been priced competitively. Has that worked out in your favour, and what are the current sales numbers for Let’s? 

Yes, the Let’s is targeted at the urban youth. It is a stylish scooter and practical too, with features like cutaway floorboards for easy handling, and a twist-and-go engine. The initial response has been very encouraging. For example, we recently launched the Let’s in Chennai and within three days there was a waiting period.  However, it is too early to comment definitively on this, so we will wait and see.
How do you view the under-25 age group consumer segment which has not been growing at the expected pace?

The under-25 age group is among the biggest consumer segments given that almost a million young adults join the work for each year. However, this segment is also the most sensitive to the economic situation as they are either purchasing from parental funds or from money earned from their first jobs. 

We expect that sooner rather than later this age group will gain strength. Further, they will look for products like Let’s given its style and price proposition.
You have had undue reliance on scooter sales at the expense of motorcycle sales. How do you view this ratio and what are the changes you plan to carry out in case you are looking to alter this equation?

Suzuki’s scooters have indeed carved out a place for themselves in the mind of the Indian consumer. The Access 125, especially, is a vehicle that is a very popular scooter. At the same time, the scooter-to-motorcycle ratio will indeed change as we increase our dealer touchpoints this fiscal year with special focus on class B and C cities. We are also increasing our penetration in rural and semi-rural areas. With these measures, we expect that we will slowly but surely reach the industry average.
What is the current capacity at your Gurgaon plant? Please detail your expansion plans. 

The current capacity of our Gurgaon plant is 5.4 lakh two-wheelers working in two shifts. 

With respect to expansion, we have been exporting our two-wheelers to countries like Columbia and Nepal. We are also looking at tapping new export markets.On the motorcycle front, how is Suzuki planning to penetrate the 150-cc and above segment? This segment has grown crowded with the entry of overseas biggies like Aprilia and Triumph in recent years.  

While many international brands are entering India, Suzuki has a very strong brand presence in the superbike category. 

The Suzuki Intruder M1800R is the world’s most modern Cruiser. It delivers the classic look of a cruiser without sacrificing the power and torque that motorcyclists crave for. The V-Strom 1000 delivers fun, excitement and versatility to any open class rider who seeks a new world of motorcycling adventure. The GXR 1000 is a perfect blend of track engineering and road-ready design. 

Twenty-five years of super-sports know-how have gone into it the making of the GSX R 1000. The Bandit has a 1,255-cc high-tech liquid cooled engine that achieves massive performance figures. It is a bike that loves going for many miles. 

And, the Hayabusa is a sporting motorcycle that has become a performance legend in its own time. In Japanese, ‘Inazuma’ means the lightning that strikes in a thunderstorm. The recently launched 250-cc Inazuma delivers both electrifying style and substance.
Any further launch plans to penetrate the 800-cc plus segment? How is V-Strom which you launched recently faring? 

The V-storm is a 1000-cc, all-terrain motorcycle. It has been very well accepted. 
Please detail your dealer expansion plans nationwide. 

We currently have 600 touchpoints across India. We plan to increase that number to 1,000 touchpoints by the end of 2014-15 fiscal. This would enable us to increase penetration in rural and semi-rural areas as well as Tier II and III towns. 
What are your current expansion plans for the Karnataka market vis-a-vis network, distribution and market share? Where do you currently stand in the Karnataka market? 

Currently, Suzuki enjoys a market share of 16 per cent in Karnataka among scooters. Suzuki enjoys an overall market share of 6 per cent which we intend to increase to 10 per cent. We have 26 dealerships, 13 branches and 16 authorised sub-dealerships in Karnataka, adding up to a total of 55 touchpoints in Karnataka. We will expand the network to 100 touchpoints. 

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