New Delhi: Yamaha Motor India Ltd announced on Thursday that its managing director Tomotaka Ishikawa is moving back to Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd in Japan to take up a new assignment effective 1 January. The company did not give any details on his future responsibilities.

Moving on: Tomotaka Ishikawa.

Known as a turnaround specialist, Ishikawa had moved to India about two years ago, after having revived the bike maker’s fortunes in Thailand using pop stars and concerts to win back the younger generation, which had become disillusioned with the brand.

His tenure in India set him similar challenges—one in which Yamaha was losing market share to companies such as market leader Hero Honda Motors Ltd and the No.2, Bajaj Auto Ltd.

Ishikawa, who in a previous Mint interview had admitted that his firm had lost its image as a maker of zippy, sporty bikes, introduced two high-end bikes, the YZF-R1 and MT01, costing around Rs10 lakh, in a bid to rev up its brand and boost sales.

“With the recent launch of 1,000cc R1 and 1,670cc MT01, we have worked on a new strategy to emulate the global Yamaha image and emphasize on engineering and technological advantages over competition. You will be hearing about our marketing game-plan in detail at the Auto Expo (in January)," Ishikawa said in a statement on Thursday.

Yamaha first entered India in 1985, partnering with tractor maker Escorts Ltd. In its 15-year partnership, Yamaha sold 2.5 million bikes, getting 7.2% of the market share. In doing so, it captured the youth market with bikes that had a sporty look and feel. In 2000, trying to compete with the more fuel-efficient bikes, Yamaha also started to make low-end motorcycles.

In five years, its market share fell from 8.4% to 3.6% in 2005-06. In 2001, Yamaha fell out with partner Escorts. In the six years since, Yamaha had it rough as losses mounted, running into almost Rs1,000 crore, according to company sources. And dealers, tired of slow-moving brands, started pulling out.

More recently, however, armed with at least $350 million from the parent company, Ishikawa streamlined manufacturing in a move to make the shop-floor more productive, created a new human resources management team and signed a new labour agreement at its plant in Greater Noida.

In the eight months to November, Yamaha’s sales fell 54% to 67,569 units in a weak market where consumers are keeping away because of higher interest rates.