Last week, I wrote a quick piece after Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki raised doubts over plans by both Tata and Carlos Ghosn’s Nissan-Renault alliance to make a $3,000 car for sale in the world’s second most populous country. It’s fair to say, Suzuki, the 77-year-old chairman of Suzuki Motor, isn’t a big fan of the idea. “There is a slight lack of clarity about this $3,000 figure. Does it refer to the actual retail price? Or does it refer to the cost of materials that are used in preparing this automobile? It’s not quite clear,” he said, before questioning what level of safety and emissions standards such a cheap car could achieve.
Yet none of that means Suzuki is going to stand by and let rivals eat into Suzuki’s 50% plus market share in India without a fight. Last night, the tireless Mr. Suzuki was in Delhi to announce two new cars which will be produced by the company’s Maruti Suzuki India subsidiary from next year.
One is the Splash diesel, which is already being built at the company’s Hungary plant for sale in Europe. It looks like a nice small car, but what it isn’t is Suzuki’s answer to Tata’s cheap number. In Britain, where cars admittedly often cost a lot more than many other markets, the Splash will go on sale in March with price tag of about $16,000. (For comparison, prices for the Toyota Yaris start from about $18,000). The Indian price isn’t yet known, but it’s safe to say Suzuki is will be looking to wealthier Indian car buyers with the Splash than its cheap car competitors.
The second new model sounds like more of the same. Currently a concept known as the A-Star, it will be another global small car, powered by a 1 liter, aluminum engine and compatible with Euro 5 emissions standards. Suzuki will produce 150,000 a year but export two-thirds of the total to Europe. If Suzuki is planning a truly cheap car for India, they’re keeping it very quiet.