How do you see the U.S. market? Do you expect a downturn?
Suzuki's business in the United States isn't as big as Toyota's, Nissan's and Honda's. If the U.S. market gets worse, that will weaken the dollar and strengthen the yen. That's a problem for us. The U.S. market has to be strong because it leads the world market.
Which regional markets do you expect to penetrate with GM?
That's a very important matter. What will we focus on? The answer is Asia. That's why we picked our Kosai plant as a mother plant for our Asia car, YGM-1. People say it's an Asia car, but I think it's a world car. But rather than putting the compact car on the European market, we should go to Asia. General Motors has GM Thailand, where they have enough capacity. In Indonesia, we have a Suzuki plant. In Australia, General Motors has a great plant. We can also go to Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines and other countries like China and Korea.
There are many big markets. It's extremely important for Suzuki, as a maker of a small GM car, to cover Asia. We will work with GM in China as well, having an engine and platform in common. We can procure parts from the same supplier. General Motors makes a big car, while Suzuki makes a small one.
Which country do you want to aim at?
All of Asia because I'm greedy. China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. ... I will go anywhere with GM.
How about India?
That's a very sensitive matter. I can't comment on that now. Suzuki is working with Maruti, and GM has its own company. Maruti is making a small car, and GM will probably make a big one. So we could help each other in sales and parts procurement. We want to keep amicable relations.
Do you think GM appreciates your contributions?
They probably admitted that we're making an effort, given that Chairman Jack Smith accepted my request that he become our part-time board member. GM is a huge elephant, and we're one-hundredth the size of GM, so we've got to make an effort a hundred times greater than GM to be recognized.
Do you think General Motors will raise its stake in your company?
As long as we are making profits, GM will use us with respect. But if we once turn into the red, they could make fun of us, and they may drop us or take us over. That's business. We need to keep showing our strength to them in a GM group.
What's the prospect for CAMI, the GM-Suzuki joint venture in Ingersoll, Ontario?
General Motors and Suzuki will have to think what we should do with CAMI. The company isn't going well. It's not making money because its production is small. That's the problem, although we are communicating well with each other. It's clear that we've got to get a handle on that. We've got to discuss it in the long term. Well, everything can't be a success. Some projects are successful, some are not.
While working with General Motors, you entered overseas markets such as India and China. Didn't you worry about any risk?
If you worry about a risk, don't go. I have been covered by all sorts of risks.
I heard you were impressed by Nissan Motor Co.'s revival plan. Is that true?
That's right. I didn't expect Nissan to be (in trouble) like that. I couldn't believe that, and so I asked myself, `Is Suzuki all right?' I found out we did some things similar to what Nissan did. I thought, `Oh, no.'
Reviewing yourself, did you correct yourself in some ways?
I found out that we did business with five suppliers of some parts. If you do that, you have to make five phone calls, negotiate with five, and fill out five order sheets. That's too much. So we cut them to two.
How do you evaluate the leadership of your successor, President Toda?
You can't compare me, who has been at the top for 22 years, with him. So I have to give him time to develop his leadership. I try to visit him in his office or talk to him once a day because he may hesitate to come to my office.