The car industry and the automobile market was seeing some drastic changes and new innovations. This was the time that Maruti brought in the Kizashi and the Grand Vitara.
Mahindra launched the XUV500 and Toyota came out with Etios. Both cars are still selling themselves like hot cakes in the Indian automobile market.
With the other companies bringing in their new cars, Maruti wanted to tap the ‘premium cars’ segment and looked forward to shedding its image of the ‘budget carmaker’ or ‘people’s car’. They had an answer, rather two answers to the problem.
The Suzuki Kizashi and the Grand Vitara
Although Maruti had bet its fate on the Kizashi and the Grand Vitara, the story didn’t go as expected.
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So let’s look at some of the factors behind what went wrong with the Suzuki Kizashi and the Vitara.
Maruti wanted to come out as a Premium Brand
All that Maruti wanted to do with the Kizashi and the Grand Vitara was to shed its brand image of being a budget carmaker and to step in the premium car segment. Everything was going right and everything was planned.
The only thing that didn’t go well was Maruti’s own brand name.
The company since its inception in 1982 had been involved in making economical cars for the Indian market. So, for a car with that perception attached to it, it was difficult to step in the premium segment with simply a car’s launch.
Moreover, with the Vitara, Maruti wanted to step into the off-road and rugged cars segment which was already crowded with some major players.
It wasn’t Made in India
The company and its top executives weren’t really sure about how the car will perform in the Indian market. So, they simply decided to make it somewhere else and then sell it in India.
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For the Maruti Kizashi, the company went for a CBU (Completely Built Unit) model. This meant that the car will be built in Japan completely from scratch, will be put inside a shipping container, shipped to India and then the car will be sold in India to the consumers. Now, for obvious reasons, this meant that the car will be much costlier than the cars that were competing in the same segment.
Maruti Suzuki & 2008 Recession
Maruti Suzuki India Limited launched the Maruti Kizashi in 2011. The world was just getting out of the recession in 2008 and India especially had been experiencing a lower growth rate than usual at somewhere around 5.6 %
Although the automobile market ended on a positive note in 2011, the consumer preference started inclining towards two-wheelers and smaller cars.
The consumers were rather more cautious and not willing to spend much.
Super High Import Duties
The car is completely imported and made in Japan from scratch, had to go through India’s infamous import duties at the time, which escalated the price of both the vehicles by a large margin.
So, at the end of the day bearing the burden of an already expensive car and then an additional duty didn’t go well with the price-conscious Indian consumer. Combine it with a depreciating rupee, and the car started touching a new and higher price.
There Were Better Alternatives
The Vitara, priced at around ₹ 20 lakhs and above unknowingly entered itself into the rugged SUV categories which already had big, popular names like the Ford Endeavour, and the Toyota Fortuner, which although, were priced above but had much much better features than what Maruti had to offer at a marginally lower price.
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The Kizashi, on the other hand, was comparing itself with the luxurious sedans like Superb or the Laura which were being offered by Skoda or the Hyundai Sonata at a somewhat similar price of around ₹ 20 – 25 lakhs.
Appalling Fuel Economy (Mileage)
Both the cars completely contradicted the pillars on which Maruti stood. And one of the major ones out of them was – mileage.
With Maruti launching the Alto, being India’s most fuel-efficient car for a long time, coming with a car that churned out a mileage of merely 10 kilometres per litre was just against everything that Maruti stood for.
The carmaker, which used to develop cars having an average of 20 kilometres per litre, a mere 10 kmpl was utterly unimpressive for the consumers.
Poor Sales Figures | Suzuki Kizashi & Grand Vitara
The Maruti brand image didn’t go well with both the cars. This is a point that can’t be stressed upon much. Both the cars came with an image that had to cater to a consumer base which was unlikely in Maruti’s bandwidth.
With the Suzuki Kizashi price tag standing at somewhere around ₹17-18 lakhs, the consumers started comparing the car to the D segment cars or the chauffeur-driven segment which had the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze, the Honda Accord. However, Maruti tended to market the car as a ‘driver-oriented’ one, which failed miserably.
The same fate followed the Grand Vitara, as the car ditched the company’s image to become an outlandish SUV which also doubled as an off-roader.
The result? Growth went tumbling down for the vehicles.
No Diesel Option | Suzuki Kizashi & Grand Vitara
When the cars came into the market, people tried coming at terms with it and the prices. Some of the consumers were ready to shell out some money. Condition? The car should have a diesel variant.
That’s another blunder that Maruti made when they launched both the cars with just a petrol variant in automatic and manual transmissions.
The few people who did come to terms with it wanted a diesel variant. The thing is that a diesel car would feature a more powerful engine which would cater to the car’s purpose.
On the other hand, the fuel prices at the time were under Government control, and diesel was in fact highly subsidised which made diesel cars a favourite for many.
Lack of Spare Parts Availability
One of the other fundamental pillars of Maruti has been the accessibility and feasibility of acquiring the spare parts and comparatively lower service costs.
Both the Suzuki Kizashi and the Grand Vitara dished these fundamentals out of the park as the service costs as well as the availability of spare parts was a bit nightmarish, due to the fact that both the cars were a CBU from Japan and hardly had any of the service parts available within the country.
Couldn’t Justify the Price Tag | Suzuki Kizashi & Grand Vitara
The entire factors of failure narrow down to this. The cars were ridiculously overpriced for the Indian market and way more for a Maruti which had an image of making sub 10 lakhs cars.
The Grand Vitara came with a hefty price tag of ₹ 21.67 lakhs for the manual transmission and somewhere around ₹23 lakhs for the automatic transmission.
Similarly, the Suzuki Kizashi was launched at an on-road price of around ₹16 lakhs for the manual version and stood somewhere around ₹18 lakhs for the automatic one, on road.
What could’ve been done to save the Grand Vitara and the Suzuki Kizashi?
Well, Maruti might have moved on with the debacle and shine bright, with new and updated cars, but some burns are better untouched.
Had the cars been marketed in the correct manner and placed itself in the right segment against the correct competitors, the scenario would’ve been completely different.
Opting for a CBU (Completely Built Unit) wasn’t a good move for a price-conscious Indian market which has an inclination towards frugality and feasibility.
The car somewhere lacked diversity at the times when the Indian economy was still facing the outcomes of the 2008 Recession.
The car would’ve had a better scenario in the case it launched itself in the diesel arena with an engine as powerful as that of the Suzuki Kizashi (185 bhp) or the Grand Vitara (164 bhp).
The point being, the car was amazing but maybe the people behind making it weren’t.