The ongoing success of Suzuki Auto continues to confound industry commentators and its local competitors. Who could have forecast even a year ago that in May 2022 Suzuki would be the top seller in passenger cars and that its Swift would be South Africa’s most popular car in terms of monthly sales?
Suzuki soared to yet another new sales record in May, selling 4 221 vehicles, which meant that the company and its 81 dealers not only outsold flood damage-hit Toyota, but also the total Volkswagen brand models (not counting Audi). The Suzuki dealers alone retailed a record 3 100 units, with the other 1 229 units going to government, rental, and fleet buyers.
The Suzuki Swift, which sold 1 764 units, was South Africa’s best-selling model ahead of the 1 213 sales of the Toyota Urban Cruiser (similar to the Suzuki Vitara Brezza), Volkswagen Polo Vivo (1 179), and Polo (1 124).
“Suzuki Auto South Africa’s sales success in recent years can be attributed to a variety of factors across all our operations,” said Brendon Carpenter, the company’s National Brand Manager, in an interview conducted with him earlier.
“Since Suzuki Auto South Africa’s establishment in 2007, and the start of sales in 2008, the focus has always been to expand sales and service operations in South Africa and surrounding countries.
“In the volatile South African automotive market, Suzuki’s key to success is a continuous focus on incremental growth and the proliferation of Suzuki’s value-packed model line-up. The expansion of the dealer network and continuous development of sales and service teams all play important roles in Suzuki’s growth strategy. This approach to doing business is reinforced through strong collaboration and continuous interaction with our global head office at Suzuki Motor Corporation in Japan,” explained Carpenter.
“For the re-launch of the Suzuki Automobile brand in South Africa in 2007, a significant component of the strategy was to link all the relative product attributes that are associated with the Suzuki brand across the full range of product offerings whether it be motorcycle, marine, passenger, or light commercial vehicles. These Suzuki attributes include Japanese engineering, outstanding performance and reliability, low running costs and value-for-money pricing.
“The scale of South Africa’s vehicle industry, in comparison with the motorcycle and outboard marine engine business, meant that the strategy was not to transform the brand, but rather to focus on a complete re-launch of Suzuki as an automotive brand that shares the same product values as its well-established motorcycle and marine divisions.
“Although having the right people in the right team is a key to the success of any organisation, the primary strategy at Suzuki Auto was not to hire unfamiliar staff members, but rather to grow and support individuals within the company. Having joined the company in 2013, I have seen many of my colleagues succeed and grow in their roles to take on management and leadership positions in their respective departments. There is a keen sense of ‘Suzuki Family’ environment among staff at our head office and our dealers which bonds us together to meet common goals.
“Training of both head office and dealer staff is particularly important and here we are fortunate in receiving a lot of support from Suzuki’s international best-practice systems and processes which we adapt to suit local requirements. The fact that we are launching so many new models and updates in quick succession, means that training on new products, technologies and processes is an ongoing process.
“We attract new dealers to the brand by providing retailers with the opportunity to buy into a well-known global brand that offers dependable, value-for-money products. Most of those dealers who started with Suzuki Auto SA are still performing dealerships to this day. We are proud of the fact that Suzuki Auto SA’s relationship well. Our dealerships are more like a partnership and not a ‘them-and-us’ situation. Our focus remains on constantly communicating and engaging with them.
“Customers see the major benefits of buying a Suzuki as excellent value for money and outstanding reliability in a fun-to-drive package. Suzuki has cemented itself into the local market as a youthful, fun-loving, and easy-to-use brand.
Brendon says the fact that Toyota, the market leader, is now selling “badge-engineered” versions of Suzuki models is exciting. He says that it proves the value and market potential of Suzuki’s products in the local market.
“If the largest automotive retailer in South Africa sees tremendous value in these products, by putting their logo on a Suzuki, it literally speaks volumes about Suzuki’s quality and reliability. Both companies are benefiting tremendously from this cooperative agreement,” concluded Carpenter.
By Roger Houghton