How Maruti Suzuki jumped to the top of the SUV sales chart

  • Maruti Suzuki has grabbed 22% of the SUV market share, so far in FY24, which is quite close to its target of 25% for the financial year.
Maruti SUVs
Maruti Suzuki's new-found dominance in the SUV market has been buoyed by vehicles such as Fronx, Grand Vitara, Brezza and Jimny.
Maruti SUVs
Maruti Suzuki's new-found dominance in the SUV market has been buoyed by vehicles such as Fronx, Grand Vitara, Brezza and Jimny.

SUVs continue to be the most preferred passenger vehicle type among Indians and every carmaker is racing to grab the biggest share of the SUV sales chart. While the leadership crown has changed multiple hands with Hyundai, Tata Motors and Mahindra, each having worn it at a point in time, it is now the turn of Maruti Suzuki, which has nosed ahead of its rivals.

A year ago, the OEM had just 9.5% market share in the SUV market, much behind the then leader Tata Motors with 22.6% share. But the country's largest automaker has climbed its way up with a market share of 22% so far in FY24, quite close to its target of 25% for the financial year.

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The carmaker was at fifth position until last year, trailing behind even Kia, which entered the country in 2019. How did the Maruti then find its way up to the top? The answer, to some, extent, lies in the marketing strategy, auto analysts told LiveMint. The industry today has a way of passing off any vehicle with raised ground clearance as an SUV. Though these cars do not fit into the traditional definition of an SUV, most carmakers today are guilty of marketing them that way, the analysts said.

Maruti Suzuki's new-found dominance in the SUV market has been buoyed by vehicles such as Fronx, which do not fit into the traditional definition of an SUV. And no, Maruti isn't alone; the same can be said of Tata Motors’ Nexon and Punch; Hyundai’s Creta, Venue and Exter; and Kia’s Sonet and Seltos. By definition, an SUV is a large and powerful car with an engine that supplies power to all four wheels. However, now, it has become a fluid term used for all vehicles with raised ground clearance, bringing in much ambiguity to what exactly defines an SUV.

However, Maruti's journey from a small carmaker to the king of SUVs has seen many challenges over the years. When the company launched the S-Cross in 2015, it marketed it as a crossover and not an SUV, which according to the company's senior executive officer - marketing and sales, Shashank Srivastava, would have done well, had it been marketed as an SUV. The launch of Brezza in March 2016 helped overcome the S-Cross failure.

Another major obstacle was the shift from BS4 to BS6 emission norms, which pushed the company to phase out its entire diesel portfolio by March 2020. This took a toll on its fortunes, posing significant challenges. This was offset by a partnership with Toyota, which led to the birth of Grand Vitara in 2022 - which is essentially a rebadged version of Toyota Hyryder. Then, 2023 saw the launch of Fronx and Jimny, expanding the brand's SUV portfolio to four models.

While Maruti has climbed up the top of the ladder, the challenge is to sustain the leadership position. To go back to grabbing 50% share in the overall passenger vehicle market, Srivastava said, the company will need to gain 34% share in the SUV market, and thus it is planning to launch new products to achieve that feat.

(with inputs from LiveMint)

First Published Date: 08 Nov 2023, 13:37 PM IST
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