News - Suzuki
Suzuki eyes 40,000
Upgraded: 2009 Grand Vitara comes with a host of mechanical changes.
Suzuki plans to increase sales by 14,000 within two years, via three all-new models
1 September 2008
SUZUKI Australia says it is on track to boost annual sales by 14,000 units over the next two years, via new and refreshed products to go on sale over the next 18 months.
Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers told GoAuto at last week’s launch of the facelifted Grand Vitara that a strategy was in place to reach 40,000 sales by 2010.
Mr Devers said that the strategy included not only new products, but also “to develop and position the Suzuki brand image as aspirational and sporty and great value for money”.
Mt Devers said that the third element of Suzuki growth strategy was “to ensure we have a professional dealer network that generates industry-leading customer satisfaction”.
Various sporting and conservation sponsorships and the SX4’s rally participation was also part of the brand renovation Suzuki Australia is undertaking.
Mr Devers noted the importance of new product in new segments: “We currently only participate in 45 per cent of the Australian car market, so (we need) new models in new segments. We will do it (increase sales) by offering new products in new segments and (with) incremental volume.”
The just-released Grand Vitara update is expected to build sales up from around 300 per month for the existing model to 500 per month. Then there is next year's new sub-Swift micro-car (see separate story) and the much-anticipated mid-size luxury car, which has been previewed as a concept called the Kizashi.
Mr Devers is confident the Kizashi will add a substantial number of sales to Suzuki’s bottom line, although actual on-sale timing has not been locked down. “The mid-size prestige car, we will look at 4000 or 5000 of those.”
“We have been told we can have it towards the end of next year but then you have to weigh up whether you launch it in November/December or do you hold off and launch it in February.”
“I could say 2009 but probably it’s going to be 2010 – and that’ll be our choice. We’re probably better off waiting.”
According to Mr Devers (left), while Suzuki Australia wants to use the concept’s name Kizashi, the production model’s appellation is yet to be decided. There will be a 2.4-litre and a V6, possibly a 3.6-litre, according to Mr Devers - both of which are derived from the newest Grand Vitara engines.
The new Suzuki (below left) will be slotted into a segment this is populated by well-respected Japanese marques, which clearly Suzuki has in its sights. Mr Devers says he sees competition as “Probably Mazda6 as a benchmark, and (Honda’s Accord) Euro. (Toyota) Camry to an extent, but I think we’ll be positioning it more against Mazda6 and Euro.”
Even though in North America Suzuki sells a vehicle called XL7 based on a monocoque GM platform, Australia is not on the list for this model.
Mr Devers pointed to a longer-term proposition for Australia in the works: “There is a brand-new seven-seater in development now, which will be 2011 – unless we can get it earlier.”
Also attending the Grand Vitara launch in Central Australia last week was Mr Toshihiro Suzuki, a Suzuki board member and senior managing executive officer, and executive general manager for global marketing.
Mr Suzuki endorsed the four-cylinder version as Kizashi’s key volume model, citing escalating fuel costs as the main motivation.
The Japanese company is working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, one of which is in co-operation with General Motors. Mr Suzuki says that despite the shared arrangement’s advantages, it is not a simple process.
“While GM’s hybrid powertrain is designed for a large car, Suzuki has to arrange the hybrid to suit a small car.”
The fuel cell platform Suzuki is working on is based on the SX4. Suzuki will reveal both the SX4 FCV and a concept dubbed the Crosscage, which is powered by an air-cooled fuel cell system, alongside the all-new Alto at the Paris motor show in October.
While the company has just launched a facelifted Grand Vitara, the question was put to Mr Suzuki about whether the Grand Vitara will continue as a genuine off-roader -unlike most of its competitors. “At this moment, yes,” said Mr Suzuki.
Mr Suzuki said that the company ultimately has to offer a vehicle that appeals to customers.
“Suzuki has to investigate competitors and market conditions. We have to consider customers demands.”
However, Mr Suzuki also pointed to the Japanese company’s long off-road vehicle heritage, which began in 1968 with the LJ10.
“While we will consider that (no low-range transmission, like its competitors), off-road capability is a Suzuki strong point.”
Answering criticism that the current Grand Vitara lacks an automatic transmission option, Mr Suzuki said it was primarily intended for the European market, where automatics were not so popular.
While Mr Suzuki would not comment on timing, he did acknowledge his company was planning to start developing an auto version of the diesel Grand Vitara. “In the future, automatic transmission (in the diesel) will be used, but at the moment is has to be developed. It depends on the market conditions.”
Mr Suzuki sais cost was the primary reason that the new 2.4-litre four-cylinder Grand Vitara engine is teamed with an (optional) four-speed automatic when competitors were appearing with more ratios.
“To achieve good fuel-efficiency, sometime in the future Suzuki will have to consider a six-speed automatic transmission. (However), there are cost issues,” he said.
What's coming from Suzuki:
Suzuki micro-car - mid-2009
Kizashi medium sedan - early 2010
New seven-seat SUV - 2011
First drive: Suzuki improves its Grand Vitara breed
New York show: Suzuki to build Kizashi