Suzuki NZ Parts and Accessories Assistant Manager, Marty Billing talks about the effects and challenges of Covid-19 on Suzuki NZ and their dealer network. 

How has the team at Suzuki coped throughout the evolving Covid-19 situation?

Covid-19 created a new set of challenges for the parts supply chain. With restrictions in place, little motoring occurred, and with dealers being closed during Level 4 there was little parts sales activity. However, Suzuki NZ (SNZ) continued to maintain a parts service with staff working from home and warehouse operations providing a service for Suzuki vehicles being used as “essential” vehicles and for Suzuki owners employed in “essential” services.

With issues like owners losing their ignition keys, the occasional driving mishap, or emergency servicing requirement, SNZ was able to process and distribute required items to the dealer network. Now that New Zealand is at Level 1, it’s back to all hands-on deck in the SNZ office, as well as our Suzuki dealer network around the country.

Have any business processes changed or developed learnings from the lockdown period?

With the New Zealand Government wanting to avoid congested ports, in case of major emergency, SNZ continued to receive container shipments and unpack these throughout Level 4 lockdown. This increased considerably in Level 2, as more shipping movement occurred, combined with more Suzuki Parts Distribution Centres re-opening worldwide, therefore continuity in parts supply was maintained.

Currently Airfreight shipping services is one of the new challenges, with so many airline fleets grounded, finding cargo space for anything other than essential/priority freight has been near impossible and we have been reliant on sea freight channels to maintain the supply chain. This has been one of the main processes we have had to develop to suit the ever evolving Covid-19 situation and extended lead times for shipments. However a number of airlines are slowly resuming key air routes albeit on drastically reduced schedules, so these services should slowly be further restored as we emerge from the pandemic, meaning these processes are continuing to evolve as more shipping options become available.

One of the other issues the industry has had to deal with is local distribution, with transport networks experiencing huge backlogs of undeliverable freight with businesses being closed. Combined with a massive increase in online shopping while people were isolated at home, further exacerbated by more people now working from home, freight networks have had increasing volumes to deal with. This has created delays to the usual overnight services that normally operate and dealers need to be extra vigilant on their stock holdings to be sure they have the required parts for customer’s servicing requirements.

How has the team found the transition back to work and the ‘new-normal’?

The team has settled back in quite well.  The ‘new-normal’ is constantly evolving, so as with everyone in New Zealand we must be flexible and open to new ways of doing things each day.

New Zealand however is in a very unique situation in combating Covid-19 and we are constantly reminded of how lucky we are to be able to return to the workplace when we see the challenges our overseas partners have to contend with.  Many of whom are either still in lockdown, or at a very limited working capacity. So, we make sure we continue to ‘enjoy the simple things’ so to speak and not take too much for granted. This view is mirrored by many of our dealers also.

What are have you been doing to support customers throughout this time?

Earlier this year we made some changes to our GetGenuine programme and now offer mechanical trade customers 3 GetGenuine points for every dollar spent, when purchasing Suzuki Genuine Parts. This means customers are now receiving double points when purchasing Suzuki Genuine Parts from their local dealer. We have been able to maintain our very competitive pricing on Suzuki Genuine Parts throughout the evolving situation, so customers can be assured of quality Suzuki Genuine Parts being used in the service or repair of their vehicles.

Why are genuine parts as important now, as ever?  

Repairers simply can’t afford to have added delays caused by incorrectly supplied or ill-fitting parts.  This is where the added value of Suzuki Genuine Parts really shines. Suzuki Genuine Parts offer competitive pricing, increased GetGenuine Points, and parts that fit first-time, every time, so customers know they are receiving a high-quality product to get the job done right, first time.

What do you hope the rest of 2020 holds for Suzuki aftersales and dealerships?

No doubt there is going to be a period of adjustment and certainly some recovery for the motor industry as lockdown has certainly had an impact on crash repair volumes and vehicle servicing patterns. Also, both personal and business travel has changed with new working environments for some as we learn to live in the ‘new-normal’.

Our vehicle sales have been positive coming out of lockdown, with some strong demand with people changing their spending priorities. Coming out of lockdown Suzuki has released a number of Special Edition models, featuring a number of accessories to give these added appeal and these have proved successful in promotions for the brand, so we see this continuing with dealers taking advantage of these to do their own in-house versions.

What remains your secret to success?

It’s no secret… having a strong dealer network and continuing to offer very high value for money is absolute key to being successful in the auto industry. Suzuki dealers have factory trained staff, a strong focus on customer service and staff who are passionate about their products. We all work together to deliver an outstanding customer experience people have come to expect when dealing with Suzuki products. Be it cars, motorcycles, or outboards.