Here's a move that we thought was possible but didn't expect would happen.
Suzuki Philippines has now officially made the switch: their popular mini 4x4 model, the Jimny, will no longer be sourced from Japan. Instead, Philippine-market Jimny units will now come from India. It was confirmed to us by a senior representative of Suzuki Philippines after Indian-made Jimny units started appearing at Suzuki dealers all over the country.
On the surface, it may seem like the move to switch to getting the Jimny from Maruti Suzuki's factory in Gurugram, India instead of the Kosai plant in Japan was a reactionary measure to the safeguard bonds imposed by the DTI on imported vehicles. As reported, the DTI (acting on a complaint from the Philippine Metalworkers Alliance) slapped import bonds on imports to protect the local manufacturing ecosystem, but that isn't the case with Suzuki's switch: this was planned all along.
The Suzuki representative (who wished to not be identified) mentioned: “Suzuki Philippines, since early 2020, long-planned the shift of sourcing Jimny to India. This move was mainly due to [the] larger production capacity of Maruti that will reduce the waiting time of our Jimny customers.”
Our contact went further to say that the plans were in the pipeline since 2018; yes since Suzuki first launched the current generation Jimny in the Philippine market. This was not a reaction to DTI, nor was it an effort to duck the imposition of safeguard duties; the Japan-made Jimny would have been slapped with the PhP 70,000 safeguard bond, but the Indian-made Jimny is exempt. Any Indian-made passenger car isn't affected by the SG bond.
The problem with this current generation Jimny has always been the supply. Global demand for the mini SUV skyrocketed when Suzuki first launched it a couple of years ago and, at the time, only one Japanese factory was building the units to satisfy that demand. Suzuki opened manufacturing in India to sort out worldwide demand and started exports in January of this year.
It's very worthy to note that in India, Suzuki -through Maruti Suzuki- is the number one automaker by far. Maruti Suzuki commands more than half of the total vehicle sales in the massive Indian market. It also has the production capacity to export to other markets worldwide.
When Maruti first announced exports of the Jimny, they made no mention of exports to the Philippines or even Southeast Asia in general. They mentioned only Latin America, Middle East, and Africa, but that seems to have been changed.
During the announcement of the Jimny's export to other markets from India, Mr. Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director & CEO, Maruti Suzuki India said: “Jimny will fulfill aspirations of customers throughout the world. Jimny manufactured at Maruti Suzuki’s Gurugram plant shares the same specification as the export models produced at the Suzuki Motor Corporation’s Kosai plant in Japan. We are confident with Jimny we will be able to enhance our overall exports.”
Suzuki says that the Indian-made Jimny is like the Japanese-made Jimny in all-respects, and the larger manufacturing capacity means a shorter waiting list.
Of course, that's not factoring in the current situation in India with regards to COVID-19. Factories -including Maruti's- have been interrupted or shut down to help manage the situation. Suzuki Philippines is anticipating supply delays brought about by the pandemic.
We certainly hope India can pull through from the crisis caused by this new COVID-19 wave.