India’s Favourite Small Car Manufacturer is the envy of a Bevy of Premium and Luxury Players. But now Maruti Seeks to get into The Luxury Segment itself with The Kizashi. Is it The Right way forward?
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Before the world could get a chance to see the unveiling of the world’s ‘cheapest’ car Tata Nano at the 9th Auto Expo in 2008, the Maruti Suzuki Pavilion attracted a lot of attention on a fine Wednesday afternoon. I was told that apparently, the company was showcasing the concept models of two cars along with other offerings in its portfolio. One concept model alluded to the A-Star. But without doubt, the audience and yours truly that day had their hearts set for the second concept car. The general buzz around was that this car was the Kizashi – Japanese for “a sign of great things to come.” Making its way to India from the Frankfurt Motor Show, where it was first showcased in November 2007 by Suzuki, the model has managed to gather some of the most ubiquitous praise and also critique globally. To put the test to rest and the mettle to the metal, Maruti finally launched the Kizashi in India in February this year.

It may be recalled that when Maruti showcased the production model of the Kizashi at the 10th Auto Expo in January 2010, many automobile experts questioned the ability of the company to take on rivals of the likes of Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla Altis. Now that the model is here in the country and positioned as a luxury sports sedan, it brings to the fore a question on the direction where Maruti Suzuki, the nation’s largest automaker, wishes to go towards, especially as neither Honda, nor Toyota or even the other competitors seem to be backing off one bit from the competitive arena.

My decision to analyse Kizashi’s marketing mix did not emanate from my personal orientation towards the Kizashi (well, I simply love the Kizashi), but from a combination of various other factors – starting from the paradoxical positioning (when Maruti made it clear at the launch itself that it was not aiming at huge volumes with Kizashi; but was rather working on making it a future-ready product) to the fact that the Kizashi might be just a tool to up-position Maruti’s brand profile, much like the ‘business class’ pitted against the ‘economy’ passengers. Yet, Shinzo Nakanishi, MD & CEO, Maruti Suzuki India, has from the start been quite affirmative in his strategic intent – “The Kizashi is a very important step forward for Maruti Suzuki. It will be for the top-end customers in the Indian market and we are fully geared up to delight the customers in a segment where we have been absent so far,” he had said during the launch. Still, the Kizashi issue is quite critical at this juncture for Maruti Suzuki, mainly because wishing away a considerable part of one’s marketing budget to promote a product that is not expected to give numbers, is quite a big ask. And my journey in the past few weeks within Maruti Suzuki’s various echelons of management only succeeded in throwing up more tactical paradigms.

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The market size for the luxury sedan market stands at 3% of the Indian automobile market (unit sales of 35,722 for the period of April 2010 to January 2011) as of today. Mayank Pareek, Managing Executive Officer – Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki, knows these figures by heart. And when he talks to me, I can only sense growing confidence that the company has in the product, but always laced with the number issue. Even Mayank admits, “Kizashi will be a product for the future. We may not be able to fetch high volumes today, but we anticipate that there will be a demand for such a model in future.” Then again, the company is investing further into even remodelling its sales process for Kizashi, as it has already got dedicated sales personnel in place for the product, who have been trained especially to deal with the target customers of Kizashi. And this apart from the fact that the Kizashi is even being moderated to suit Indian conditions. I. V. Rao, Managing Executive Officer – Engineering and R&D, Maruti Suzuki, lets on to me, “Maruti has been so successful in the Indian market so far only because it has been able to provide consumers with products that they’ve always been looking for. We are confident that Kizashi will replicate the success.”

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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22/09/2011 2:48pm

The luxury sedan segment has a mere 2.8% of the total auto market in India, but a burgeoning middle class is seen spurring demand for premium cars.

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22/09/2011 2:50pm

ndia's top car maker Maruti on today geared up to cater to rising demand for luxury cars in the fast growing Indian market with the launch of Suzuki's premium sedan Kizashi. Maruti, which sells roughly half the cars sold in the Indian market, does not expect Kizashi to substantially boost its performance in the near term. "We are anticipating that this market will grow; there will be demand for such cars," Managing Executive Officer Mayank Pareek told reporters.

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22/09/2011 3:04pm

Maruti Suzuki, a dominant car maker in India is trying to make its presence felt in the luxury car segment. With incomes soaring this is a lucrative segment to make forays into. Maruti will be launching its sedan Kizashi on the second of February. The vehicle will be imported in from parent Suzuki’s facility in Japan. It is expected to be positioned between the levels of Honda Accord and Toyota Camry at the upper end and Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Corolla at the lower end.

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22/09/2011 3:20pm

The vehicle, to be imported fully from parent Suzuki's facility in Japan, will be positioned between likes of Honda Accord and Toyota Camry at the upper end and Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta and Toyota Corolla at lower end.

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22/09/2011 3:36pm

“This (Kizashi) is our attempt to be future ready, as we believe the A4 and A5 segment (luxury) is going to grow. It is small at the moment but the way the economy is growing, this segment is going to be big,” Maruti Suzuki India Managing Executive Officer (Marketing & Sales) Mayank Pareek

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22/09/2011 3:40pm

When the Maruti Kizashi in India was launched a month ago, we at Indiandrives were excited about it. Especially because the Kizashi is a niche product especially considering that the manufacturer has always failed with highly priced products. Here brand name counts more than the product on offer.

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22/09/2011 3:58pm

The recent launch of Maruti"s Kizashi has some good cheers to share for the car lovers and the maker. The company has received 350 units of Kizashi in just 25 days of launch of this sports luxury sedan.

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22/09/2011 4:06pm

Putting an end to the rumors regarding the launch of a new luxury car, Maruti India, launched its much awaited luxury sedan "Maruti Kizashi". The new Maruti Kizashi marks Maruti's debut into the upper end of the market. Since the last 1.5 years, there had been rumors regarding Kizashi, but Maruti officially announced the launch only recently.

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22/09/2011 4:08pm

Putting an end to the rumors regarding the launch of a new luxury car, Maruti India, launched its much awaited luxury sedan "Maruti Suzuki Kizashi". The new Maruti Kizashi marks Maruti's debut into the upper end of the market. Since the last 1.5 years, there had been rumors regarding Kizashi, but Maruti officially announced the launch only recently.

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22/09/2011 4:11pm

Maruti Suzuki has been the fore-runner with fuel efficient cars in India. As for the Kizashi sedan the looks are really great, but it would be mileage and cost which would determine its popularity. Maruti Suzuki is the best automotive deal in the Indian Automotive market for the affordable and best features with good specification car.

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22/09/2011 4:45pm

“The Kizashi is a major step forward for Maruti Suzuki…we are offering an international car to top-end customers in India. With the launch of this sports sedan, we will keep up the momentum in the market without forgetting the small car market which is our strength,” MSIL Managing Director and CEO Shinzo Nakanishi told journalists here.

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22/09/2011 4:52pm

Maruti Kizashi is expected to be the first luxury D segment assult from Suzuki stable. the car which receive a strong admiration from many US. press after the test drive in recent month will carry an advanced four-valve two-litre petrol, Euro V engine.Maruti Kizashi is also likely to boast the six-speed transmission and 6 speed automatic cvt with paddle shift. will divide in to 3 varint,:sedan , wagon and a Subaru legacy’s like crossover sports.

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22/09/2011 5:06pm

Maruti has officially entered the premium luxury saloon segment with the launch of the Kizashi. The luxury sports saloon carries an introductory price tag of Rs 16.5lakh for the manual variant, while the CVT is available at Rs 17.5lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

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22/09/2011 5:08pm

The design of the interiors and the general build quality are a big step up for Suzuki. The bold design really stands out and there are plenty of well built high-quality bits used in the cabin. Some plastic bits though are not up to the standards of the class and detract from the overall feel of the cabin.

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22/09/2011 5:16pm

In the past, the company’s ventures into the premium sedan segment have not been too successful. The Maruti Baleno was discontinued because of low sales figures. The SX4 too, is not doing too well, its sales limited too 600-700 units units in the domestic market. In contrast, the Honda City sells over 2,500 units every month.

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22/09/2011 5:23pm

Maruti Kizashi comes with an outstanding aero-dynamic design with front view featuring a completely stylish look. There is a new innovative tapering headlights and classic front design that is unseen so far in Maruti small car models in India. This new upcoming model can rightfully be attributed as a cross-over sports sedan.

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22/09/2011 5:26pm

Maruti has very recently launched yet another small car model, Maruti Ritz, in India but it is yet to make its impact in the Indian market. Maruti India Limited; India's largest car manufacturer that sells nearly every second car in India is contemplating an expansion of its product portfolio; especially in the sedan segment.

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22/09/2011 5:31pm

Maruti Suzuki is planning to introduce its premium sedan model Kizashi in the Indian car market. It had unveiled the model at the Delhi Auto Expo 2010 in January but had deferred its plans to introduce the car till end of the year. It has already launched the car in the Japanese and the American market where it is quite successful.

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22/09/2011 5:42pm

A base model of Kizashi, priced at 1.65 million rupees ($36,340) in New Delhi, will compete with the likes of Toyota’s Corolla, Volkswagen AG’s Jetta, General Motors’s Chevrolet Optra and Honda Motor Co’s Civic. With demand for cars in developed markets stuck in low gear, global automakers have been increasing their focus on faster-growing regions such as China and India.

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