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Suzuki wishing on A-Star

In the pipeline: Alto emerges in the metal at Paris next month.

Alto emerges front-runner in Suzuki’s sub-Swift micro-car plan, badged as the A-Star

1 Sep 2008

SUZUKI Australia is expected to use this year’s Sydney motor show to announce the Alto as its hotly-anticipated sub-Swift micro-car – just a week after it makes its global public debut at the Paris motor show on October 2.

As previously reported, Suzuki will introduce a cheap sub-light car to Australia by the middle of 2009 and has not one but two global products to choose from: the Alto, which is made in India by the Maruti-Suzuki joint-venture, or the Suzuki Splash, which is made in Suzuki’s facility in Hungary.

Suzuki Australia will announce which car it will take at the Sydney show next month and with low pricing being the paramount consideration to minimise sales substitution of the popular Swift, GoAuto understands the Alto is the current odds-on favourite.

According to Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers, the model would come with a full suite of safety features, Prius-like fuel economy and a pricetag under $13,000.

“We would have to position it well below Swift, because we don’t want to undermine Swift sales, so it may be a sub-$13,000 car with ABS, curtain airbags, ESP and under 5.0L/100km.

“We will pick what we consider best for the market”, said Mr Devers.

While the Splash is already on sale in Europe following its premiere at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, the Alto is yet to make a public appearance in production guise.

The latter was previewed by a concept dubbed the A-Star – a name Mr Devers said he hoped to apply to the all-new model when it arrives next year.

30 center imageSuzuki describes the Alto and Splash as ‘phase two’ of its family-car development plan, but Mr Devers thinks his smallest model will more likely be bought by students or empty-nesters. “They are inner-city type cars,” he said.

How many sales the Alto/Splash can attract “Depends of what fuel prices do”, but Mr Devers said he expected at least 8000 additional sales.

“Look, the way things are going, probably another 10,000 incremental business. We will probably, just by the nature of the beast, cannibalise some Swift sales, so we may lose a few Swift sales, but if we get to 10,000 of the other one, there’s probably 8000 incremental sales,” he said.

Suzuki board member, senior managing executive officer and executive general manager for global marketing, Toshihiro Suzuki, who was in Australia for the facelifted Grand Vitara launch, said that there will be no issues if Australia sources the new sub-light car from its factories in India or Hungary.

“Quality out of India and Hungary the same and both nearly as good as Japan,” he said.

The five-door Alto hatch has already been confirmed for sale in New Zealand next year following the commencement of production in October.

Annual production of the tiny front-drive model is expected to reach 960,000 by 2010, with around 100,000 units destined for European markets.

Both Alto and Splash are offered with a choice of 1.0-litre or 1.2-litre petrol engines.

In Europe, the Splash is offered with a 48kW 1.0-litre three-cylinder or 63kW 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, plus a 55kW 1.3-litre turbo-diesel engine.

At present, the 1.0-litre and 1.3-litre versions of Splash are manual-only, with a four-speed optional for the 1.2-litre.

Like New Zealand’s model, GoAuto believes Australia’s Alto is most likely to be powered by the all-alloy Euro 5 emissions-compliant 996cc three-cylinder engine, which produces average CO2 emissions of less than 109 grams per kilometre.

Further, Mr Suzuki also hinted at an LPG future for Suzuki’s sub-Swift city-car.

“LPG is very important, so Suzuki has to develop an engine for LPG,” he said. “It is currently testing engine durability for LPG. For Suzuki a small car is main volume, so a car with LPG engine will go into a small car. A three of four-cylinder car.” But the Suzuki executive warned a LPG-powered sub-light car is not a fait accompli.

“Suzuki has to investigate volume and the customer wants. Infrastructure is a problem, globally,” he said.

Read more:

First look: Alto emerges as sub-Swift Suzuki hope

Suzuki Australia is on Splash watch

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