Newsmaker of 2020: Kenichi Ayukawa

by Sumana Sarkar 04 Jan 2021


The Managing Director of Maruti Suzuki India has led from the front in putting the company back on track after the lockdown and also supported suppliers and dealers through inventory management. 

It will not be wrong to say when you talk about cars in India, Maruti has a bit of an emotional connect with us. Thirty-seven years ago on December 14, the first Maruti 800 was delivered and since then this carmaker has put the country on wheels. Whether you reside near the Himalayan heights, the corner lanes of Kanyakumari, the depth of Dwarka or amidst the serene locales of the Seven Sisters in the North East, it is hard to ignore a Maruti zipping past. Well, perhaps that is exactly why it is interesting to note how the Maruti leadership is tackling the current crisis as the industry grapples to get to pre-Covid sales levels and set the agenda for 2021. 

Kenichi Ayukawa, MD, Maruti Suzuki spelt out a clear strategy and outlined the approach that India’s largest automaker, with over 50 percent passenger vehicle market share, needed to adopt, “This crisis may lead to the emergence of new opportunities, skill sets and technological solutions, and we have to be quick in adapting to the requirements of the changed world. I firmly believe in ‘the survival of fittest’.”

Lesson from Covid
Often addressed as one of the driving forces for Maruti, Ayukawa believes in the idiom, ‘Talk the talk’. He took charge of Maruti in 2013, undeniably one of the toughest periods for the carmaker. Be it labour issues or production problems, Ayukawa has a record of not just handling them deftly but also coming out of it with a profitable solution. Unfazed by the current situation, he concentrates on the lessons learnt, “The other important lesson this crisis has taught, is that the business environment has become far more dynamic and interconnected and far less predictable than before. At a time when the automobile industry is witnessing a once-in-a-century transformation across the world, events like Covid-19 further increase the complexity of business.”

Delivering sustainable growth through an inclusive approach is the central theme that guides recovery at Maruti Suzuki under his stewardship as he took up the additional responsibility of the President of SIAM. Working together with people, both employees and customers is how he envisions Maruti getting the edge. Be it a Smart Finance Platform to address all financial needs to a subscription model to create a wider user base, Maruti has put the pedal to the metal, not just to ramp up production but also lead the growth drivers. Future-ready

While the conceptualised-in-India Futuro-e concept, revealed at Auto Expo 2020, points to a new design direction for future models, Ayukawa highlights that a sustainable future is his No. 1 priority, “The company has reduced carbon emissions of its fleet by 20 percent. For further reduction to meet the future CO2 targets, the company is adopting a mix of powertrain technologies based on CNG and electrification. The partnership between Suzuki Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation will help the company gain access to hybrid technology. SMC is not only providing its support for requisite technology but also partnering to set up 

India’s first Lithium-ion cell and battery manufacturing facility.” If the past few months' sales numbers are any indication, it looks like the strategy is working in favour of Maruti Suzuki. It's been a difficult year for India Auto Inc but the country's largest carmaker seems set to maintain its green tick consistently. However, that’s not something which can make Maruti’s soft-spoken top boss complacent or comfortable. As the popular Maruti ad goes, he is busy helping “. . .  create the drives to bring out the best in you.”

This was first published in Autocar professional's 16th Anniversary issue on December 15, 2020.


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