By Manny N. de los Reyes

I HAD the pleasure and good fortune of being seated beside Suzuki Philippines’s Director and General Manager Keiichi Suzuki during a media dinner last Wednesday night.

Mr. Suzuki was rightfully proud of his namesake company’s accomplishments in vehicle sales the last few months. Suzuki Philippines, Inc. (SPH) closed the first half of 2019 on a high note, posting an impressive 14% sales growth over the same period last year and climbing to the sixth spot in the local automobile industry ranking and fifth place in the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) ranking.

“We started the year on the right foot and strengthened our efforts in Q2 to reach more Filipino customers. Our aggressive and strategic marketing campaigns are key in pushing up our position both in the Philippine automobile industry and CAMPI rankings. These achievements reflect the Filipinos’ growing trust in our brand and the quality Suzuki cars that we provide. We are more driven now more than ever to bring only quality driving experience in every Suzuki ride,” shared Mr. Suzuki.

I asked Mr. Suzuki which models were the most popular in the Philippines. His eyes brightened as he emphatically replied, “The Ertiga!” No surprise there as the compact seven-seater MPV segment is arguably the fastest-growing category in the country right now. No surprise, too, that the previous and the all-new current generation Ertigas are selling fast because of their spacious cabins, fuel-efficient drivetrains, and comfortable rides. The Ertiga is responsible for 34% of all of Suzuki’s sales. The introduction of the new Ertiga with the distinctive all-black interior (a departure from the common beige or gray interiors in this category) ramped up sales even further.

Mr. Suzuki was quick to add, though, that the Swift, Celerio, Dzire and Vitara have been vital contributors to Suzuki’s phenomenal sales growth and increasing market share. These top-selling Suzuki vehicles collectively contributed 77% to total H1 2019 sales.

The Suzuki Swift contributed 13% to the brand’s sales for the first half of the year. The Celerio, on the other hand, ranked third among Suzuki’s top-selling vehicles with an 11% share of sales. Powered by a three-cylinder 1.0-liter DOHC engine, the hatchback is available with either a five-speed manual transmission or a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT), making it the first model in its segment to offer a CVT. Its compact design surprises with an interior that provides ample space, legroom and storage for stress-free driving.

Meanwhile, Suzuki is buckling up for continued strong growth these succeeding months with more targeted marketing strategies. Besides continuous efforts to bring the vehicles closer to the target markets through product displays and test drives, Suzuki reinforces its presence in the transport scene through active campaigns and promotions, including for those in the transport network vehicle service (TNVS) ecosystem.

In this segment, Suzuki is pushing its Vios/Mirage-fighter, the 1.4-liter-powered Ciaz subcompact sedan, which is among the largest and most spacious in its class.

And, of course, there’s the universally loved Jimny 4×4. Mr. Suzuki remarked how much more units of the Jimny they can sell in the Philippines. Unfortunately, worldwide demand is such that supplies in all markets could hardly cope.

But that’s occasionally the price of success. And it’s always a good problem to have.