A Suzuki Way of Life
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Kane Weller
Recognised earlier this year for its exceptional sales performance by the Company’s distributors and its dealers, Suzuki Auto South Africa (SASA) is keeping a close eye on the everyday needs of consumers in order to maintain a competitive value proposition that takes care of motor vehicles over their entire lifecycle.
Monitoring these industry trends since the founding as a direct subsidiary of SMC in South Africa in 2008, Suzuki Auto has pushed-on with an aggressive expansion programme, which saw its dealer network grow from 23 in 2013, to 44 in 2016.
“Launching vehicles at regular intervals up until 2014, Suzuki became the second fastest growing brand in South Africa, setting us in good stead for 2015,” recalls Yukio Sato, SASA’s Managing Director (MD). The following 12 months saw us mount a strong sales drive that coincided with the growth of our dealer network and the introduction of exciting new products such as the Celerio, Ciaz and the new Vitara. This sales drive has helped Suzuki to outperform its peers in some segments in an otherwise declining market.”
He adds: “In recognition of our expansion efforts, we subsequently took home top honours in the regional Suzuki Auto Sales Awards in February as well as receiving the runner-up prize for the sales growth award.”
Pitted against the strong competition of Suzuki distributors across Africa, the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, it was Suzuki Auto South Africa’s significant investment in capital and local personnel that made it stand out from the other operations.
Aside from this sales growth, Suzuki Auto South Africa has set its targets on radically improving customer satisfaction and, in line with this goal, to introduce new sales, service and part processes that are all aimed at providing customers with an even better ownership experience.
Placing emphasis on the education and development of employees to ensure that the above is achieved, Suzuki Auto South Africa conducts both internal and external training at junior and middle management level in order to generate the leadership, supervisory and technical skills needed to ensure an adequate future supply of these critical skills.
“Staff retention in a sales environment is often a challenge, but we undertake regular reviews of our incentives to reduce turnover. We strive to offer a competitive salary and set appropriate compensation benefits, performance recognition, and acting on insights from exit interviews,” says Sato.
Supporting the South African operations is a streamlined procurement system, for which Suzuki utilise a sole agent, KWE, for the importation of parts and accessories (P&A) from Japan, India and Germany. “By utilising one agent and performing all P&A logistical functions in-house, we can focus our energies on making sure our stock replenishment reaches expectations when distributed to all our dealerships. Leveraging this structure, we also export to neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania,” the CEO explains.
Offering value-packed products that are fun to drive – epitomised in the global Group’s motto ‘WAY OF LIFE’ – Suzuki Auto South Africa has positioned its product range to answer the changing needs and tastes of the customer.
“More and more customers are downsizing from bigger and more expensive vehicles; seeking out smaller cars that offer a high standard basic specification and excellent safety rating, while being much more fuel efficient,” confirms Sato.
Offering a plethora of styles to suit a variety of tastes, the Company now import and sell nine different model ranges (10 including the Swift Sport) in South Africa and the nearby countries; namely Namibia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
“Suzuki’s dealer network has expanded by approximately 60 percent over the past 24 months, reaching a total number of 44 dealers across these four countries. Led by this strong growth, we will be focused on reaching areas where the Suzuki brand is not represented yet; potentially adding up to six dealers to bring our total network to around 50, with further opportunities in Lesotho and Botswana also being investigated to enhance our reach,” he says.
Adding to this already extensive vehicle portfolio in May this year, the Company launched the Suzuki Super Carry light commercial vehicle (LCV) in its first foray into this business segment. The launch coincided with a heavy marketing campaign, led by the slogan ‘gets work done’. Sato reveals: “The Super Carry is a no-frills single cab light utility vehicle that is drawing the attention of small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking a lightweight, user-friendly workhorse with exceptional load carrying capacity and low running costs. South Africa is the first market outside of India and native Japan to introduce the newcomer; proving just how important the South African market is to the Group who share our view of the vehicle’s potential here.”
Arriving at a time when cost-efficiency, affordability and value for money have become key market requirements, the Super Carry promises the versatility and robustness that is important to small enterprises; while remaining the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class.
Sato concludes: “With the launch and subsequent marketing campaigns for the Super Carry currently underway, we hope to complement this launch with the all-new Baleno towards the end of the year.”