The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the global economy hard and analysts are saying that the slowdown due to the impact of COVID-19 will be worse than that of the 2008 financial crisis. The automobile industry, too, is struggling and is working towards reshaping their timelines and investments and trying to understand the impact that this pandemic will have on the industry as a whole. In order to understand that better, we got in touch with Devashish Handa, Vice-President, Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt Ltd. and here’s what he had to say.
– What measures are being taken by Suzuki Motorcycle India for its employees, dealers and customers through the lockdown period?
Suzuki Motorcycle India announced the suspension of production at its manufacturing plant in Haryana on 22nd March 2020 as a precautionary measure in line with Government’s directives for Covid-19. Ensuring the well-being of our employees, we also announced a `Work from Home’ advisory to individuals who are not involved with maintaining of essential services. Our first and foremost priority is to ensure the health and safety of our employees, dealers and customer and we are determined to take all possible steps in that direction. Moreover, SMIPL began distribution up to 1,000 cooked meal packets to contractual workers, labourers, locals and families residing in Hasanpur, Darbaripur and Kherki Dhaula villages to support the community at large.
– How has the impact of the lockdown been on the Indian automotive industry as a whole, and also for a manufacturer as big as Suzuki Motorcycle India?
Covid-19 has had a major impact on the overall economy and industries across all segments have been adversely hit including the automobile sector. The growth of auto manufacturers across segments is disrupted with the halt in production, distribution and sales for over more than a month now, further deterring the industry and consumer sentiment, delayed launches and BS6 transition. Disruption in the supply chain due to the nationwide lockdown will affect future production. However, talking about our previous fiscal year, SMIPL was the only manufacturer to register positive growth. We recorded a 5.7% growth with 790,397 unit sales.
– Another development that has happened through this period is the transition to BS-VI emission norms. How is Suzuki positioned on it?
Suzuki Motorcycle India had already showcased its entire BS6 compliant product portfolio at the Auto Expo, 2020 and had already begun transitioning in January 2020 with the launch of BS6 compliant Access 125. Following that, SMIPL had begun retail of its newly launched BS6 products including Burgman Street, Gixxer series and Intruder before the shutdown.
– You had a few BS-VI compliant models that were expected to be launched at around this time of the year. Have the timelines shifted or are you considering going ahead?
As per the Government’s regulation transition to BS6 was to be done by April 1, 2020. However, the pandemic leading to nationwide lockdown deferred the plan for the entire automobile industry. Similarly for SMIPL as well, our select products couldn’t be transitioned to BS6 emission norms, however, we have released the teaser of our upcoming products including Gixxer 250 series and V-Strom 650 XT to engage with our potential customers. We will be launching them soon once operations bounce to its rhythm.
– How soon do you expect the market to reach pre-Coronavirus demands?
Currently, it is too early to mention on a specific timeline on when the market will attain pre-COVID-19 demand. There will be various changes in operating procedure at manufacturing, distribution and sales level with a focus on bringing the economy back on track with social distancing, adequate safeguard measures and surveillance. Given the shift in mobility, we believe that the two-wheeler segment will revive faster pertaining to the cost of ownership as compared to four-wheelers and the demand will pick-up gradually.