Right after 1982, when Suzuki started operations in India, we also aimed to enter the European market, aiming to become the No. 1 car manufacturer. At that time, most Western European countries had strong domestic car manufacturers, so we had enough reason to focus on Eastern Europe. We particularly had a great interest in Hungary, a small country in the middle of Europe, with no relevant automotive industry, where our compact cars could be recognized as the people’s car, or “my self(our car), as they are now called in Hungarian. At that time, average Hungarians could only get cars like the East German Trabant or the Soviet-produced Lada, and they had to wait many years to get one. Therefore, we concluded that we had a good chance of rapidly increasing our sales if we started production in Hungary. In fact, we were convinced that our vehicles outperformed older models made in communist bloc countries.
Shortly after entering into talks with the Hungarian government in 1987, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and, in the turmoil of political transformation, the government positioned Suzuki’s production project as a Hungarian national project. . Additionally, help from Itochu Corp. meant significant help in establishing this special relationship. It is no exaggeration to say that this government decision has linked the fate of our company to Hungary. Looking back, our history clearly shows that Suzuki was able to overcome many challenges by building trusting relationships and connections with local partners.
Suzuki models that Hungarians like to call mi autonk are made in the city of Esztergom. In 2017, we reached 3 million vehicles manufactured in Hungary since the start of production. In 2018, we produced around 170,000 vehicles, of which 150,000 were exported to a total of 123 countries, most of which were sold in Europe. Since entering the Hungarian market, Suzuki cars have been among the most popular and best-selling models in Hungary. In the same year, with a 14% share of all vehicles sold, Suzuki became a market leader in Hungary.
I really believe it’s a Cinderella story, of sorts, about how a Japanese car became the symbol of Hungary and Hungarian industry. This special relationship shows that our decision to invest some 30 years ago was mutually beneficial not only for our company, but also for Hungary and the Hungarian people.