Daihatsu gains on Suzuki in minicar race
The Asahi Shimbun
Daihatsu Motor Co. is closing the gap with front-runner Suzuki Motor Corp. in the race to lead the domestic minivehicle market.
In February, the automaker outsold its archrival for the first time in 14 years. The company also took top spot in May and July, which gave it a 3-win, 6-loss record for the first nine months of this year.
At a news conference in August, President Teruyuki Minoura said the company aims to lead the sector in domestic annual sales in 2007, Daihatsu's 100th anniversary.
The automaker has never beaten Suzuki in annual sales since it entered the minivehicle sector in 1957. Suzuki has held top position for 32 years.
Daihatsu has put more emphasis on minivehicles-those with engine displacements of 660 cubic centimeters or less-since it became a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp. in 1998.
The sales surge this year is attributed to an expansion of the product lines.
Its new models, targeting specific customer groups, have steadily become hits.
In response to Daihatsu's aggressive marketing, Suzuki has thrown greater weight behind non-mainstay models as well.
When it redesigned the Every van, a commercial vehicle, in August, the company also introduced the new Every Wagon, a sister model for which the exterior and interior are restyled as a passenger vehicle.
Despite Daihatsu's push, industry officials expect Suzuki's sales network to ensure it remains ahead.
A large percentage of minivehicles are sold through automobile maintenance companies, which deal with several automakers.
Suzuki has forged strong links with these independent agents, with 80 percent of its sales being made through such outlets.
While the domestic competition hits high gear, Daihatsu is still no match for Suzuki in overseas markets.
In fiscal 2004, Suzuki sold 1.22 million vehicles outside Japan on a consolidated basis, compared with Daihatsu's 267,000.
"When we prevail against Suzuki in the domestic market, we will have the strength to venture overseas," Daihatsu's Minoura said.