PETALING JAYA: Being the 12th largest automobile manufacturer in the world by production volume, Suzuki needs no introduction.
Still, for Suzuki Malaysia Automobile Sdn Bhd, the local distributor for Suzuki cars set up four years ago, one can never have enough recognition – which is why managing director Ibrahim Maidin is aggressively spearheading initiatives to create more awareness of the Japanese marquee in Malaysia.
“The Suzuki brand is still young in Malaysia so there is a lot of room to grow the brand,” he told StarBizWeek.
Following a restructuring exercise in March 2008, DRB-Hicom Bhd, which initially had a 100% stake in Suzuki Malaysia, currently has 40%, with Japan-based Suzuki Motor Corp and Itochu Corp holding 40% and 20% respectively.
“We are working closely with our Japanese principal to revamp the brand. In the first three years, we were just selling numbers on the road. Now, we want to sell a ‘way of life’,” Ibrahim said.
With that, he said Suzuki Malaysia intended to strengthen its dealer and service network to give better sales and services to its customers.
The company recently refurbished its showroom in Petaling Jaya to reflect its new “corporate identity”. Ibrahim declined to disclose how much was spent.
Under its “new identity”, montages of what Ibrahim calls “lifestyle images” adorn the walls of its showrooms.
“Suzuki is a globally successful brand and the challenge has been to deliver that image. We want to give people who walk in the impression that we are not just selling cars, but a lifestyle,” he said.
The company has 28 showrooms nationwide and plans to refurbish other outlets.
“Step by step, we are upgrading. We also plan to get showrooms up and running in Jalan Kuching, Cheras and Miri within the next two years. Some showrooms will also be relocated,” Ibrahim said.
He also said the company launched its Suzuki Assist Programme last month to boost after-sales service.
“All of our existing and new customers qualify for this programme. They get a lot of benefits such as quick accident claims approvals and added repair benefits.
“Previously, in the event of an accident, our customers would need to settle their claims personally but now, we help them with the process.”
In the pipeline for the Suzuki Assist Programme would be other benefits such as flower arrangements and plumbing repair contacts.
“On top of helping our customers maintain their cars, we will also cater to their lifestyle needs,” Ibrahim said.
While he declined to provide any figures, he said the company’s advertising and promotional budgets would increase this year despite the current global economic downturn.
“We don’t want people to think that because times are bad, we will be reducing our advertising exposure. We have to show that we are around even in difficult times,” he said.
Ibrahim said everyone could expect to see more of Suzuki in certain magazines, newspapers and billboards.
In terms of sales, Suzuki Malaysia is aiming to sell 6,000 units in its current financial year ending March 31 (FY10), with its best seller, the Suzuki Swift, comprising about 85% of total volume.
It sold 4,929 Suzuki vehicles in FY09, with the Swift comprising about 70% of total volume. The Swift costs RM73,788 (on-the-road, with insurance).
Suzuki Malaysia currently offers the Grand Vitara, SX4 Sedan, SX4 Crossover and Swift Sport. All models are fully imported from Japan.
Ibrahim said Suzuki Malaysia was studying the possibility of introducing one or two new models, including a sports utility vehicle, to the Malaysian market and was currently studying the potential market acceptance and accepted price levels of the vehicles.
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