The heydays of Naza is over but is anyone surprised with outcome? Within just one generation since the passing of its founder the late Tan Sri SM Nasimuddin, Naza has lost all the crowning jewels of their once fledging automotive empire – Kia, Peugeot, Citroen, Harley Davidson, and Aprillia.
At its peak in 2006, Naza was selling more cars than Honda Malaysia – 35,998 units of Kia (including licensed Naza-badged Kia models) versus 26,527 units of Honda.
Starting 2021, Naza wants to start on a clean slate. The company is embarking on a Naza 2.0 transformation program.
With Kia and Peugeot gone, Naza wants to start anew by securing the Suzuki franchise, now parked under Naza Eastern Motors. It will be the first new automotive venture under Naza 2.0.
To find out how will Naza Eastern Motors do things differently this time, I spoke to Mohamad Redza Azizan, Head of Company for Suzuki at Naza Eastern Motors.
In setting up the Suzuki business, Redza was mindful about avoiding the shortcomings made in the past.
Rather than embarking on a fast-paced nationwide expansion that would’ve stretched the company too thin, Redza wants Naza Eastern Motors to get the basics right first.
“I think what happened in the past was that we grew too fast. We expanded too fast. What Tan Sri did was great. He started from grey imports, be built his own factory. He did well with Naza Kia. For the first few years, they were the No.4 brand, just behind Toyota (and Proton, Perodua), way ahead of Honda and the other brands. Then I think he passed away too soon. There was the digital disruption. Principals (from other brands) started coming in and we just didn’t cope. I think we have learned our lesson. We want to get things right from the start. We will not push for volume. We will grow things organically, and we will setup a proper structure - for after-sales, sales, marketing and all that.
“This Naza 2.0 has been in talk for several years already. It’s just that this pandemic pushed it forward. Naza’s plan has always been to shrink, in order to grow again,” said Redza.
The company is not in a hurry to sell in high volumes or to sign up many dealers.
“The dealer network, we are not looking at expanding to 40 or 50 dealers nationwide. We are looking at just major cities, maybe up North, one down South and one in Central. That should be it.”
Currently the only Suzuki outlet is the flagship store run by Naza Eastern Motors, at Naza Auto Mall along Federal Highway, Kuala Lumpur.
Naza is not looking at opening any more Naza-owned outlets. The subsequent outlets will be dealer-owned ones, but these won’t materialize until Q3 this year.
There no plans to locally-assemble any Suzuki models in the near-term.
Redza explained that there are changes to Malaysia’s CKD incentives. The pre-conditions for excise tax rebates are stricter now and it’s quite difficult for a small player like Naza Eastern Motors to achieve it.
“Looking at the uncertainty of the CKD policy moving forward, we’ve decided to play it safe and just go with a CBU-only line-up. That’s why we are looking only CBU models from Japan, and moving forward, also at CBU models from other ASEAN countries,” added Redza.
The Suzuki Swift Sport currently sells for RM 139,900, available on as an automatic, for reasons that has already been explained here.
The Suzuki Jimny, should the plan materialize, will only come later as there is a global supply shortage for the iconic retro-looking SUV.
Despite its circa RM 200k (estimated) price, the cult car has a ridiculously long waiting period all over the world. Buyers in Indonesia are willing to wait for 2 years for the model.
In Thailand, only 90 units were allocated and all were sold out as soon as the shipments arrived.
Can Naza redeem itself?
It's too soon to tell. Of greater concern is that the people helming the company is still the same group of socialites who are better known for their social media presence than for growing the family business.
More importantly, can Suzuki do better this time around?
Previously, Suzuki was misled by its fellow DRB-Hicom partner Proton, entering a short-lived partnership for the Proton Ertiga, only for it to be abandoned by Proton, in favour of Geely.
To show its commitment to the partnership, Suzuki even pulled out of Malaysia, a foolish move which necessitated its return to Malaysia with Naza.
Suzuki might be very successful in India and Indonesia but as far as Malaysia is concerned, they have a poor track record of reading the character of the people they work with.
What is clear however is that the people executing Naza Eastern Motors' plans know what they are doing. Did you know that Malaysia is launching the Swift Sport ahead of bigger Suzuki markets in the region, like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore?
The question is whether Naza, which is still helmed by the same group of owners, can retain these talent, take a back seat and understand that they are not best people to run the business (past results speak for itself), and empower these professional managers to do what they are hired to do.