So, the world has changed plenty from when we started this year with optimism for the automobile industry to now, when automotive manufacturers witnessed a period of no sale at all. All this because of the coronavirus pandemic – We have been forced inside our homes, we’re afraid to shake hands with our friends, we can’t travel, and business can’t run as it did before the COVID-19 outbreak. Even as India has stepped into an unlock strategy after being under strict lockdown for over two months, safety concerns persist since we are now living with a virus.
Hence, like several other industries, automobile companies have had to rethink their sales model so as there is zero contact between the customer and salesperson while maintaining ease in conducting the transaction. But then, touch and feel through tests rides are important in motorcycle sales, so how does one get around it. We got in a conversation with Devashish Handa, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, After-Sales, Suzuki Motorcycle India, to learn more.
‘Suzuki At Your Doorstep’
The customer’s expectation to touch, feel and experience the vehicle will continue, it’ll be up to the manufacturer to walk the extra mile. The brand introduced ‘Suzuki At Your Doorstep’ initiative includes a fully contactless buying and service. Customers can book test rides, book the vehicle, pay booking amount, make full payments, book a service – all online. Suzuki will make a test bike available at the customers’ doorstep and also deliver a purchased vehicle to them.
‘Sales picking up pace’
Handa tells us that the initial response of its customers has been better than what had been thought of. Suzuki had expected its customers to make motorcycle buying decisions at least three-six months after the lockdown was lifted. In the first month of ‘unlock’ Suzuki retail sales have gone back to nearly more than half of the sales from pre-COVID times.
A common opinion today is that since personal mobility will catch on as people will not want to use public transport, two-wheeler sales may see a boom in the market. To this, Handa responds by saying that based on the few days of Unlock 1.0, Suzuki has seen a positive trend in sales, however, refrains from drawing conclusions yet.
How to make motorcycle buying easier
Suzuki is looking at this in two parts: one – assistance in finance and instill confidence in terms of safety against the virus. Personal cash flows have been affected but thankfully the RBI has relaxed terms of lending.
For a serious buyer, the best way is to reduce cash outflow initially without increasing their liability. And hence, Suzuki is in talks with banks to facilitate longer tenure finance schemes of up to four years to help bring monthly installments down to half. About buyer safety, Suzuki At Your Doorstep is at the centre of the brand’s efforts to ensure digitised contactless transactions.
How far away are electric Suzuki two-wheelers?
Suzuki Motorcycle India takes electric mobility as a distinct possibility and there is work being done in the field. ‘We are watching the space very carefully, but the journey of electric two-wheelers has not been consistent. The cost of acquisition in comparison to ICE vehicles continues to be a concern. As and when the buyer is ready, Suzuki will be present in the market as it already has the technology.’
Suzuki Intruder 250 in the works?
The Suzuki Intruder 250 has been making headlines for a long time now and a lot of has reserved our expectations for news on the matter at the 2020 Auto Expo. But it was not to be so. Now that the world and business strategies have had to change, Handa clarifies that currently, Suzuki is not focussing on new product launches. However, he does confirm that considering Suzuki’s 250cc engine and platform (featured on the Gixxer 250 and Gixxer 250 SF) has gathered appreciation, there will definitely be more iterations of it in a not very distant future.
If you happen to have been waiting for a middleweight ADV though, Suzuki is preparing to launch the BS-VI V-Strom 650 XT in the second half of this financial year. Unveiled at Auto Expo 2020, the V-Strom should bring us good news by September.
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