Overwhelmed by the response to Maruti Suzuki’s Baleno in the domestic market, Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) launched the premium ‘Made in India’ hatchback in Japan on Wednesday.
The move came four months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country would, for the first time, export cars made domestically by the Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSI) to Japan under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
The MSI manufactures Baleno solely at the automaker’s Manesar facility in Haryana. Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2015, Baleno has sold over 38,000 units in India since its launch on October 26, 2015. The company also plans to export the premium hatchback to more than 100 countries.
Suzuki’s association with India began in 1969, when the Suzuki Fronte SS caught the attention of Congress leaders Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi at the 1969 Asia Highway Rally in New Delhi. Their talks with SMC CEO Osamu Suzuki led to the establishment of the Maruti Udyog Limited, which eventually rolled out the first Maruti 800 on December 14, 1983.
Today, the carmaker dominates the Indian car market with a nearly 49% share.
On the occasion of the Tokyo launch on Wednesday, Indian ambassador to Japan Sujan R Chinoy said, “Maruti Suzuki exports to over 125 countries, including those in Europe, which is proof of the quality of its products. The model being launched today, the Baleno, is a state-of-the-art car developed and manufactured in India through Suzuki’s excellence. It will be exported to 100 global markets, including Japan. I am confident that the Baleno will be a huge success in Japan. I wish the launch complete success.”
Kenichi Ayukawa, the MD and CEO of SMC, said “A landmark moment like this bears testimony to the success of the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. The launch of the ‘Made in India’ Baleno in Japan is a proud moment for all of us. This reaffirms Maruti Suzuki’s manufacturing potential, and its growing importance in Suzuki Motor Corporation’s global business strategies. I am confident that our Baleno will be well-accepted by Japanese customers as well.”
The Baleno combines a liquid flow-styled body with an efficient powertrain on a new-generation platform. Equipped with some first-in-class gadgetry, it boasts of smart exteriors and interiors.
The hatchback is powered by 1.2-litre K-series petrol and 1.3 DDiS-litre diesel engines, and its sports version – the Baleno RS – is likely to get an all-new 1.0 litre boosterjet diesel engine. While the concept of the RS was unveiled at the Delhi Auto Expo on March 4, 2016, it is slated to be launched later this year in India alongside another hatchback, the Ignis.
Also read | How Japan’s Suzuki became India’s Maruti