The SUZUKI Car Company (Maruti Suzuki that is) has largely been credited for having brought in an automobile revolution to India. What started as a small scale joint venture with Maruti is now India’s largest car manufacturing company for some innumerable years and at the moment they appear to be invincible!

But unfortunately their counterpart Suzuki Motorcycle company never really enjoyed that much success in India. There was a time when their business looked all set and rocking, and then there were times when it was in a major crisis. And finally they had to pack off their bags and quit unceremoniously only to come back few years later.

WHERE THERE IS RISE, THERE IS A FALL

Well that seems to be the exact case in the 17 year old joint venture between TVS and Suzuki. In 1984, Suzuki came together with TVS for the production of 100 cc motorcycles under the name of Ind-Suzuki.

Suzuki-Motorcycle-History-India-Pic

Subsequently the moped division was bought by Ind Suzuki Motorcycles in 1987 and the company changed its name to TVS Suzuki Ltd. Suzuki was to provide technical assistance to TVS. Even though TVS had a wide range of products including mopeds, scooters and motorcycles, collaboration with Suzuki was for Motorcycles only. Soon sales started to pick up and the models were an instant hit. The Max-100 motorcycles were very successful and known for their reliability, so much that these motorcycles formed a base for further development of products for the company.

From 1990 to 2000s

In late 1990 the company posted losses for the first time. Automobile analysts remarked TVS Suzuki’s products lagged behind in performance and fuel efficiency when compared to other companies. A year later there was a company lockout due to labor problems and it got a ‘practically sick company’ image. In 1992, a turnaround strategy was formulated. TVS-Suzuki then introduced five new models surprising everyone – which included Supra, Supra SS, Shogun, Samurai and Shaolin, which was India’s first 5-speed 140cc motorcycle (read user review here).

Suzuki Shaolin Ownership Review by Akhil Sunny bikeadvice in (3)

Aggressive marketing strategies were used and special attention to skill development of managers, sales officers and service engineers was given. Number of Dealership outlets was reduced from 400 to 250. The move worked and the company succeeded in making a turnover of Rs. 4.1 billion and a net profit of Rs 300 million in the year 1994. It was a remarkable recovery. Soon the company rose to sparkling heights and was in close competition with Hero Honda. TVS-Suzuki was now India’s Second Largest two wheeler manufacturing company. However, somewhere in the midst of the turnaround, differences between the two surfaced up.

The Split Between TVS & Suzuki

TVS accused Suzuki of creating roadblocks in the management and also strongly resisted the launch of Samurai and Shogun, both of which proved to be successful models for the company eventually. Moreover Suzuki refused TVS more funds and technology for new models to keep in pace with the competition. “Everything without exception had to be approved by Suzuki” said a TVS spokesman.

“Joint ventures are like long-term friendships. They go through ups and downs. Changes in circumstances and expectations may cause tensions in the joint venture. But if you have a robust working relationship, whatever be the tension, you don’t go and shout from the rooftops. You keep negotiating, fighting internally, hammering it out and finally arrive at something that both can live with.”

…said Mr Venu Srinivasan, Managing Director of TVS-Suzuki, in an interview to Business Line, in 1996, when asked about his experience of working in a joint venture and reports of tension among the partners.

50th-Anniversary-Edition-Suzuki-Hayabusa

Soon the official version came out in public. It is said that Suzuki’s demands were VETO Rights over aspects of management and in Decision-making process, restrictions on exports, conditions to restrict use of local components, compulsory import of all Dyes and Capital equipments from Suzuki and payment of royalty for an indefinite period.

TVS straightaway resisted all of these demands. The Government decided not to interfere in the issue and soon TVS-Suzuki witnessed huge decline in sales. Meanwhile, the Indian Motorcycle segment shifted to four stroke models and TVS-Suzuki lost out on massive demand.

Kawasaki & Suzuki:

Later, Suzuki expressed desire to increase the equity holding and in August, 2001 they entered an agreement with Kawasaki for Product Development, Design Engineering and Manufacturing. TVS saw this as a direct conflict of interest. And finally in September, 2001 TVS-SUZUKI announced their breakup.

TVS bought the 25.97% stake of Suzuki for Rs 90 million, increasing its stake to 58.43%. The frog-shaped but powerful 150cc Fiero was the last product of TVS-Suzuki. It was a celebration time for other companies as the company without Suzuki’s technical help was not expected to head anywhere and TVS was expected to prove weaker in the years ahead!

Re-Entry of Suzuki

Suzuki Motorcycles abandoned all its operations and left the country only to re-enter India five years later. From there on, they have been on a slow and steady course and are working towards building a good brand image. To enhance their brand recall, they introduced their international range of high-capacity motorcycles including the mothership Hayabusa, Gixxer 1000 and Bandit.

Bandit
Suzuki Bandit

As of 2010, the had seven products in the portfolio. When they started operations solo, they not only had to counter Hero Honda, but Bajaj was a massive motorcycle company at this point and then there was their ex-partner TVS, which was the third largest two-wheeler manufacturer now.

And later on Honda, after their split with Hero also joined the competition and is the most aggressive two-wheeler manufacturer at the moment. As a result of the competition, Suzuki could not really set the same foothold in the country and many accuse them of being negligent towards India in the two-wheeler space.

suzuki-zeus-review
Suzuki Zeus

125cc Zeus and Heat were launched which were decent offerings but failed to impress the market. Suzuki tried improvising their product offerings and introduced Hayate in the 110cc and 125cc Slingshot in the commuter segments and the GS150R in the 150cc segment.

Out of these GS150R is out of production whereas the other two continue to stroll around but with marginal sales. However, Suzuki fared well in the scooter segment with their 125cc Access. The big thing lacking in Suzuki’s motorcycles is/was the ‘interest levels’. They did not seem to be interesting to an average buyer…

New-2014-Suzuki-Gixxer-150cc-Motorcycle-Official-Pic

Come September 2014 and Suzuki introduced their new premium 150cc Gixxer which, for the first time, created a wave and in our road tests and shootouts came out as a winner and became a 5000+ per month seller. They followed it up with its faired version Gixxer SF and very recently introduced its fuel injected version. Currently, both these motorcycle siblings are expected to lead Suzuki’s charge and the company appears to have now caught the grip of what India loves.

Suzuki-Gixxer-SF-Blue-Pic

With annual sales of 3.40 Lakh two-wheelers in Financial year 2015, Suzuki stands as the sixth largest two wheeler manufacturer in India behind almost everyone. Not very successful at moment but they have introduced some very interesting models internationally like the GSX-R150(most powerful sports 150cc), GSX-R250 (very interesting sports 250cc with Inazuma’s relaxed engine) & V-Strom 250 adventure tourer which, if brought to India, can round up their lineup.

No doubt that Suzuki is nowhere near Honda’s aggression but it looks like they are getting confident and things will get more interesting when they start going all guns blazing…

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15 COMMENTS

  1. I always had a soft corner for Italian bikes, but the Suzuki Shogun was and still has a special place in my heart (it was India’s first affordable performance bike), hope we will be able to see more bikes in the 250cc segment which would be both affordable and thrilling to the Indian customer just like Shogun was in its hay days.

  2. Guys Today we check the BHP output of a Bike and say its 17.00001,21.9999…etc, But check out in those days when Bhp was not a big selling factor, The Shogun had a 18Bhp, 2 Stroke engine and the RD had a 31Bhp…….

  3. I am always a fan of suzuki. Well who can forget the fiero of suzuki, It was the most refined bike of that time even though it lack looks and the fifth gear. Yet many of my friends prefer it over the modern machines offered by bajaj and tvs. Since the second launch I bought the Heat first and last year the GS150R. I am happy with both bikes and is dependable. But still in matter of refinement the company need to improve!

  4. suzuki has been always been a gr8 manufacturer. My dad bought an IND-SUZUKI AX100 back in 1985. It’s still in A-1 condition. My frnz admire the bike n salute the manufacturer n the way my dad maintained the bike for such a long period. It’s been undr my possession frm the last 4 yrs n i’m jst luving the experience of riding it. I dont evn feel the need to replace it n get a new bike for myself. Its gonna celebrate(or i mst say “i’m gonna celebrate”) its 25th birthday soon n i’m looking 4wd 2 write an article 4 bikeadvice sharing my experience with my darling bike on this occasion……

    Saluting the masterpiece frm the arsenal of MASTER OF BIKING INDUSTRY itself

    SUZUKI!!!!!!!

  5. @pranay looks like we share same story, only difference being mine a TVS-SUZUKI 1990 model, it still works very well thanks to some brilliant maintenance

  6. Hey! Nice article, so many people didnt knew this before why suzuki and tvs split ways! nice work
    i also think that if tvs suzuki wud still have been here as one unit, they wud beat all of its competitors easily

  7. @tvs suzuki…..yes brother maintainance of the bike is the biggest factor which determine its age.

    @madhu……..u’ll have to wait till 6th of dec. this year 4 my article as thats the date my bike turns 25.

  8. Suzuki Samurai! No problem!

    How many of us have grown up with that tagline! And now as a proud GS150R owner I can say:

    Suzuki GSR! No problem!

    Thanks for the info!

    And Nidhin Chandran has raised an interesting point. Where ,indeed, are the Italians???? Aparrantly, no one, apart from Mamma Sonia has the guts to come to India. 😛

  9. Suzuki’s current bikes in India lack style. Otherwise, they are really reliable bikes. Also, they need to reduce weight and make lighter bikes like yamaha SZ-R. Less weight means more power.

  10. they can make there hold even more stronger if they do not delay i n the launch of bikes of 200cc and below 500cc this space is booming in india right now and suzuki have opportunity to prove its worth

  11. Thanks Bike Advice for taking us on a time travel.

    It is actually good to see Suzuki getting aggressive.

  12. what? the previous comments were 2 years before & some comments are from 2011??

    SO nothing much has changed for Suzuki apart from Gixxer! What a lazy bum team Suzuki India!

    There was a news some time back Suzuki is going to collaborate with Maruti vendors what happened to that?

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