The money is in the small-displacement market.
Suzuki is celebrating a major milestone this month—it's built an almost-unbelievable number of motorcycles in India. According to Suzuki, As of July, 2020, the company has built five million motorcycles through its Indian subsidiary.
That’s a lot of bikes, and some people are going to wonder how Suzuki did it. The company is pretty quiet in the Euro and North American markets these days; the last all-new platform from Suzuki is the GSX-R1000 update. Otherwise, the V-Strom, DR, and SV models are all warmed-over technology, mostly originating in the 1990s. That doesn’t mean they’re bad bikes, and it does keep the price down, but it also leaves riders a bit disappointed when they’re want new models.
Of course, the secret to the five-mil number is the moto-mad Indian market. In India, motorcycles and scooters are seen as transportation necessities, not weekend toys. Suzuki’s Indian dealership network is strong, with 530 dealers in 279 cities across the Subcontinent. So, once it builds the bikes, Suzuki is able to get them in the hands of the people pretty easily. Suzuki’s Indian business is run through an in-country subsidiary, and that subsidiary very much understands what that market wants. With a manufacturing facility in Gurugram, Suzuki is able to avoid punitive import taxes. That keeps MSRPs low, while offering Japanese quality. Five million motorcycles is a big number, and Suzuki wouldn’t have reached it without a series of clever decisions and careful planning.
Suzuki’s Indian lineup looks considerably different from what you find in western countries. Sure, it’s selling a BS6-compliant V-Strom 650, but the real backbone of its sales comes from machines like the Gixxer 250 and 150, and the Access 125 scooters. In that market, these bikes are considered more than adequate, and India buys a lot of them. In fact, the small-capacity motorcycle market is so hot in India and other Asian countries that Suzuki’s execs have been muttering about focusing on this segment, and getting away from the bigger bike segment. Does that explain what you’re seeing at your local Suzuki dealership? Maybe.