Future Models - Suzuki
Suzuki model blitz aims to double sales
Quality and design: Suzuki is incorporating concept car elements in its latest models, including the Swift (centre).
Suzuki gets serious with six new models over the next three years
6 October 2004
A KIA Carnival-caning seven-seat people-mover is among the key new products a resurgent Suzuki is rolling out between now and 2008.
Three sport utility vehicles that includes a Ford Territory-style "cross-over", a new small car and possibly a replacement for the 1990s Cappuccino convertible are also expected to debut as Suzuki seeks to double its sales and alter its sagging image.
Suzuki revealed elements of its $US1.5 billion future model strategy to GoAuto at last month’s 2005 Swift launch at the Paris motor show.
That car, a Toyota Echo rival featuring styling and engineering several notches above what people may expect from the Japanese economy brand, sits on a fresh platform that will underpin most of Suzuki’s new model army.
This will include the forthcoming people-mover, which will be built off a stretched platform and allow seven occupants to be seated far more ably than the current Grand Vitara SUV-derived XL-7.
Speaking of the Grand Vitara, its replacement will eschew today’s separate chassis construction for a monocoque platform that Suzuki says will be unique among the SUV throng.
This should liberate far more passenger and cargo space while greatly improving on-road performance and refinement compared to the 1998-vintage vehicle Suzuki sells at the moment.
The larger "cross-over" SUV, due out in 2007 but expected to be previewed in lightly disguised concept car form at the Detroit or Chicago motor show early next year, will be Suzuki’s largest vehicle in this class yet. It is expected to be offered in seven-seat as well as five-seat configurations.
At the other end of the SUV scale, a small city-based runabout is being developed with Italian car-maker and General Motors partner Fiat. That should arrive around the same time.
Diesel engines are also figuring high in Suzuki’s future, with an increase in the use of Fiat’s acclaimed JTD direct-injection turbo-diesel engines
Details are sketchy but it appears this sub-Swift sized vehicle will not replace the Jimny, a separate-ladder chassis off-roader popular in rural areas and fleet agencies the world over.
On the engine front, a new range of four-cylinders spanning 1.0-litre to 2.5-litre capacities are being developed, while the High-Feature V6 engine Holden manufactures in Melbourne will also be built by Suzuki in 3.6-litre format in Japan.
Diesel engines are also figuring high in Suzuki’s future, with an increase in the use of Fiat’s acclaimed JTD direct-injection turbo-diesel engines.
Already available in European-bound Grand Vitara models, they are expected to debut in some versions of the forthcoming next generation SUVs.
On the fuel cell vehicle front, Suzuki is locked in with General Motors, developing a powerplant it expects to come to fruition as early as 2007 or 2008.
In the interim, it already markets a petrol-electric hybrid "Kei Car" in Japan (the sub-800cc segment Suzuki dominates with models like the Wagon R), although it sees the future of its hybrid technology in heavier SUVs.
Suzuki has promised that none of these vehicles are scheduled to appear as rebadged Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Holdens, Subarus, Daewoos or even Mazdas, as they have in the past. This has only served to undermine Suzuki’s image, as it confuses customers and dilutes the brand’s uniqueness.
Suzuki is also keen to rid itself of the dependable but dull image models like the current Vitara and Ignis light car have helped harvest.
"We want people to make an emotional connection with our cars," said Suzuki board member overseas marketing, Hirotaka Ono.
Suzuki hopes the new model rollout propels it in a new direction that promotes a "way of life" and not just transportation.
2006 – Grand Vitara replacement
2007 – Liana replacement
2007 – People Mover
2007 – "Cross-over"
2007 – "City" compact
2008 – Convertible
Double sales sought
SUZUKI Australia boss David Le Mottee wants to double sales from the expected 8000 units this year to 16,000 by the end of 2006.
The new product outlined above is obviously central to this, but a greater concentration on the dealer network should also reap results.
An increase in the number of dealerships is likely. Four or five new sites, in Melbourne, Sydney and possibly Perth, are on the cards. Currently the tally is 120 nationally.
Aggressive marketing to a younger demographic using television is also a key strategy, which will begin with next February’s Swift debut. Under 35-year-olds is the target audience.
"If we can hook the younger buyers than everything will fall into place" is how Mr Le Mottee sees it. He expects to shift 5000 Swifts in 2005.