But it would be very foolish to overlook or even discount Shuzo Hoshikura, currently the general manager for automobile at Suzuki Philippines Inc. (SPH), because he has made the brand in the country more recognizable in so far as cars carrying the Suzuki brand are concerned.
SPH also has every reason to be happy because this year, sales of Suzuki cars are expected to reach about 10,000 units or a 50-percent increase over last year’s figures.
And as a sign of SPH’s confidence on the brand in the Philippines, ten more Suzuki dealerships were opened this year.
Hoshikura also sees brighter days for Suzuki cars in the next five years provided they communicate to more vehicle buyers the virtues of the brand.
For the current year, Hoshikura attributed the growth in Suzuki car sales, among others, to the introduction of the Ertiga multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) and the 1.2-liter variant of the Swift subcompact hatchback.
“We launched our new MPV that is named the Ertiga, which is a three-row seven-seater vehicle. This is good for family use. And then we launched Swift 1.2. So we launched these two models at the same time in 2014,” he said.
“Since we launched these two models, many of our customers come to our showroom,” Hoshikura said.
Five years in the Philippines
Hoshikura has been leading SPH’s automobile operations since November 2010 or for a total of five years. In 2004, he worked for Suzuki Japan and was assigned to the Suzuki automobile joint venture company in China. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce from the Kansai University in Japan.
It was during his five years in the Philippines that SPH widened its product line-up and dealer network. Among others during that time frame, the Suzuki APV found a following among car buyers wanting a small family van that had enough space to seat at least seven people, while the Swift generated its own following despite stiff competition from the offerings of Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Ford.
“Swift is our subcompact vehicle, good for professional or a small family. It has very cute design and is very sporty,” Hoshikura said.
He added that the customer profile of Suzuki car buyers is very mixed.
“It’s very mixed and made up of young professionals, family users, other customers, something wide in nature. There are married car buyers but some of them are very young people,” Hoshikura said.
Although riding high on a 50-percent sales increase this year, he said SPH still has a lot to do to get more customers. Hoshikura also acknowledged that pricing is a sensitive issue among car buyers in the Philippines.
“Vehicle customers try to choose other vehicle, they always try to choose the best, of course, which is why there is competition in the market. So we have a network in the Philippines that explains to the customer the features of our product and the pricing. If pricing is too high, people cannot buy [our]cars,” he said.
Like many heads of car firms in the Philippines, he sees car sales in the country increasing in the next five years. One of the reasons he cited are the dollar remittances of Overseas Filipino workers to the country.
“So I think this type of economic system is unique and good for the Philippines. So I think in next five years, the automotive industry in the Philippines will still grow,” Hoshikura said.
Onward to 20,000 units
Even with the growing market for vehicles in the Philippines, Hoshikura said there is much to be done for Suzuki cars to gain more buyers.
“So we have explain more our brand and products to the Filipino [car buyer]. It will take several years,” he said.
But he said reaching 20,000-unit sales for cars is not impossible for the Suzuki brand in the next years to come.
“If we achieved 10,000 [units in 2015]then we study how we can achieve 20,000 [unit sales],” he said.
Whether he will lead SPH to 20,000-unit sales for cars will depend on whether Hoshikura will continue his assignment in the Philippines. But if he had his way, he likes to be assigned to the Philippine longer because he, like many Japanese expats, has learned to love the country for its natural beauty.
“Why not? If mother company [of Suzuki]allows me, I want to stay in the Philippines more. [I] love it very much here,” he added.