From being one of the biggest players in the two-stroke era to dominating the current 125cc scooter segment, here’s how Suzuki’s India innings has panned out so far
From Shoguns and Samurais to Gixxers and Hayabusas, Suzuki has always had its own fan following ever since it entered the country in the 1980s. Even though Suzuki’s lineup in India isn’t as big as how it is in the global market, the Japanese auto major is quite renowned to make sound products that will last for generations to come. Here’s how Suzuki’s journey in the country has turned out so far:
Just like Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki also wanted to gain inroads into the fast-developing Indian two-wheeler industry which was witnessing a number of new products in the 1980s. It was usual for most of the foreign brands to partner up with local companies and Suzuki joined the bandwagon too. The Japanese brand entered into an agreement. It focussed on offering technical knowhow to TVS, in 1982. This agreement helped the brand produce two-wheelers designed specifically for the Indian market.
At the time, it was a well-made decision for Suzuki because TVS was witnessing quite a healthy growth and had just entered the world of motorsports The relationship was pretty symbiotic as Suzuki offered accessible technology and TVS helped it gain inroads into the Indian market. The marriage gave birth to numerous two-stroke pocket rockets in the 90s like the Suzuki Shogun and the Samurai, which were some of the most preferred choices for enthusiasts apart from the legendary Yamaha RX100 at that time. The best bit about these bikes were that they were not only affordable but were also packed to the brim with performance at the time. Suzuki’s technical assistance deemed to be fruitful too as the Shogun was the first motorcycle in India to be equipped with a catalytic converter. Also, the Suzuki Shaolin was India’s first motorcycle to feature a 5-speed transmission.
However, newer, more modern competition, lack of competitive four-stroke products (barring the Fiero) and reportedly different business perspectives led Suzuki parting ways with TVS in 2001.
In 2006, Suzuki re-entered the Indian two-wheeler market as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Suzuki Japan. In the same year, the brand made its entry into the 125cc motorcycle segment with the Heat, followed by the Zeus. Then in 2008, Suzuki forayed into the 150cc category with the GS150R. It was the only bike in its segment to be equipped with a sixth gear and also a gear position indicator. However, none of these motorcycles made a lasting impact in the Indian market.
However, when it came to the scooter business, Suzuki has had quite a successful innings. It launched its first scooter, the Access 125 back in 2007. In a way, the Access 125 did an ‘Activa’ in the 125cc segment, raking in huge volumes year after year. The winning mantra was its conservative design, plush ride quality and fuel-efficient, reliable engine. These aspects made it one of the most sought-after scooters in its segment. Even today, it is the best-selling 125cc scooter in the Indian market.
Suzuki also dabbled in the quarter-litre premium segment with the launch of the Inazuma in 2014. It was the first bike in India to be sold as a CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kit. The motorcycle had one of the most refined engines of the time, and was perfect for highway touring. However, its styling was very conservative and the high price tag of Rs 3.1 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) made it prohibitively expensive. A few months later, Suzuki even slashed the price by a massive Rs 1 lakh and even that did not make any impact on its sales.
While it struggled in the premium segment, Suzuki’s fortunes changed in the 150cc naked segment thanks to the launch of the Gixxer in 2014. It was the first Suzuki bike whose engine and chassis were developed specifically for India, so the Japanese brand took its own sweet time to come up with a proper streetfighter but the wait was well worth it. The Gixxer looked muscular yet elegant and packed well-engineered powertrain and underpinnings, which made the motorcycle the best in its segment and was often considered as the benchmark. Suzuki then introduced a faired variant, the Gixxer SF, which was for a very long time the most affordable full faired motorcycle available in India.
Suzuki also had a few products in the big bike segment like the Intruder M1800R, GSX-R1000R, GSX-S1000 and GSX-S1000F. But nothing was as widely popular as the Hayabusa. This superbike was immortalised in the Bollywood movie “Dhoom” back in 2004. The motorcycle was so popular that Suzuki finally decided to assemble it in India in 2016, slashing the price by a massive Rs 2 lakh. Even today, it is one of the most value-for-money superbikes in the country with a stonking price of just Rs 13.74 lakh (ex-showroom)! Suzuki further expanded its CKD portfolio with a second model, the GSX-S750. This naked motorcycle marked Suzuki’s entry into the middleweight streetfighter segment. It was then followed by the V-Strom 650, which is one of the most potent off-road-friendly middleweight ADVs in India. Unfortunately, the Hayabusa couldn't comply with the strict BS6 emission norms, thus ending its glorious run in the Indian market from April 1, 2020 onwards.
Recent developments & future plans:
After the Inazuma, Suzuki re-entered the quarter-litre segment with the all-new Gixxer SF 250 in May 2019. At the same time, the Japanese brand also updated the Gixxer SF with its 2019 iteration. Recently, Suzuki also gave the Gixxer a much-needed overhaul in the form of the 2019 Gixxer. It was pretty evident that Suzuki would introduce a naked variant based on the Gixxer SF 250 and the recently leaked brochure scans confirm its arrival too. Also, in a bid to exploit the premium end of the 125cc scooter segment, the brand launched the Burgman Street last year, which has been raking in decent numbers. However, its sales figures aren’t anywhere close to the Access’ popularity. We also expect Suzuki to update the Access 125 and launch a larger capacity scooter in the near future as well. A bigger-engined Intruder 250 is also on the cards.
In the recent past, the Indian government has been pushing towards electric mobility as concerns of depleting fossil fuels are on the rise. Suzuki already has an electric vehicle project under development but it remains to be seen whether the first product will be a motorcycle or a scooter. Expect Suzuki to showcase a couple of concepts at the Auto Expo. Exciting times, indeed!