It’s a time of transformation and reinvention at India’s largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki. And in more ways than one. The storied car company is in the midst of drawing up a strategy for the future which will hinge on decarbonisation and filling gaps in its product portfolio. Alongside, it has also witnessed an important change in top management where 58-year-old Hisashi Takeuchi has been tasked with executing this game plan as the new MD and CEO. Of course, his predecessor Kenichi Ayukawa, who—together with the company’s iconic Chairman R.C. Bhargava—helmed the company for nine years, will also be around for a while to ensure a smooth transition. There are some key factors driving what is clearly Maruti’s big move into the future. While the company enjoyed what some would call an unnatural 51 per cent market share in passenger vehicles till recently, that share has now come down to 43 per cent as competitors like Hyundai, Kia, Tata Motors and Mahindra bring in newer models across categories. The Indian market is also witnessing a marked preference for SUVs. And there is also the overall move in the industry towards clean mobility.
As Prerna Lidhoo writes in the cover story, Maruti has strategies clearly chalked out to address all these imperatives. As car industry veteran Bhargava says, unlike others, Maruti’s decarbonisation strategy hinges not just on electric vehicles (EVs), but a mix of CNG (where it has an over 80 per cent market share), hybrid, EVs (which it will launch in 2025) and even biofuel. Bhargava believes that it will take some time before EVs become mass-market products in India, and hence an India-specific diversified decarbonisation plan works better for a company whose major mandate is to provide affordable cars for Indian families. It is also lining up new launches in mid-size- and entry-level SUVs to plug product gaps. New MD Takeuchi is bullish about what his new assignment entails. He says he is happier taking over the reins at a time when the company’s market share has slipped a bit, since he can then take up the challenge of getting it back to 50 per cent and above. How Maruti, which is synonymous with the Indian automobile industry, pivots into its new avatar will be a fascinating story to track in the coming days.
Elsewhere in this issue, we bring you the latest findings of the quarterly BT Business Confidence Index, which has hit a seven-year high of 55.2 (on a scale of 100) for the fourth quarter of FY22. And as Alokesh Bhattacharyya finds out, despite the spectre of inflation, the fuel price increases and the war in Ukraine, the sentiment is even more positive for the first quarter of FY23. But as we have seen earlier, confidence can be a fragile thing—and if inflation and the war continue to take their toll, things can change quite dramatically very quickly.
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