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Splash still in Suzuki Oz plan

Twin babies: Suzuki is set to make a Splash with another mini.

Alto micro-hatch won’t be Suzuki Australia’s only new mini-car

31 Jul 2009

SUZUKI’S ground-breaking new Alto city-car is now on sale in Australia, but it won’t be the only micro-hatch to join the Japanese small-car maker’s line-up in Australia.

As Australia’s first affordable sub-light model and first passenger car to emerge here from India, the Alto was widely believed to have been imported instead of the larger and more expensive European-built Splash hatch.

But now it has emerged that the Splash, which is now also produced in India, remains on Suzuki Australia’s agenda and could be sold here once production starts in Thailand.

“Suzuki is still a work in progress in Australia,” Suzuki Australia managing director Takeshi Hayasaki told GoAuto. “Our sales are more than double that of Mazda’s in Japan, yet in Australia Mazda’s sales are more than double ours.

“My job is to ensure that situation improves. The challenge is to make sure that in future Australians get more benefit from the Suzuki brand, by getting access to more cars like the Splash.

“I am requesting it (the Splash) and it will come in the future, but right now the problem is demand in Europe,” said Mr Hayasaki.

30 center imageFrom top: Suzuki Ritz (Splash), Suzuki Alto, Suzuki Swift.

Japanese mini-cars known as kei-cars, last year Suzuki Motor Corporation was the third best-selling brand in Japan with 669,000 sales – behind market-leading Toyota with 2.1 million sales and Nissan (678,000), but ahead of Honda (624,000) and Mazda (244,000).

So far this year in Australia, Suzuki has sold 10,012 vehicles (down 17.5 per cent on the first half of 2008), placing well behind market-leading Toyota (94,233 sales, down 26.1 per cent), Mazda (38,603, 9.2 per cent down), Mitsubishi (27,063, down 23.0 per cent), Nissan (26,954, down 12.5 per cent), Honda (22,350, 25.9 per cent) and even Subaru (19,009, 8.6 per cent down).

The five-seater Splash is slightly longer, taller and wider than the four-seater Alto, which went on sale from August with a benchmark-setting entry-level manufacturer’s list price (plus statutory and dealer delivery costs) of $12,490.

The Swift’s recent base price rise to $16,790 leaves a $4300 gap between Suzuki’s two smallest models for the Splash, which would also position a 1.2-litre model between the 1.0-litre Alto and 1.5-litre Swift.

The Splash was launched in May as the Ritz in India – the only nation in which the Splash is now produced outside Hungary, where Suzuki’s Esztergom plant has manufactured the Splash as a replacement for the Wagon R+ in Europe since 2008.

Co-developed with GM from a shortened version of the Swift platform, the Splash is also available in Europe (where Opel and Vauxhall versions are known as the Agila) with 1.0-litre triple-cylinder petrol and 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines.

The front-drive five-door hatch rides on a 2360mm wheelbase (the same as the Alto’s, but 30mm shorter than the Swift’s) and measures 3715mm long, 1590mm wide and 1680mm high, making it 215mm long than the Alto and actually 20mm longer than the Swift.

The next-generation Swift, however, is due to emerge on a larger new platform in 2011.

Established in 1983, Maruti Suzuki, which is 54.2 per cent owned by Japan’s Suzuki Motors Corporation, is India’s top-selling car-maker and last year claimed a 54 per cent share of the new-car market in India, where the Splash name cannot be used.

Last year it sold more than 730,000 vehicles in India, and exported more than 50,000, including the Alto to Australia, via Mumbai and Singapore.

GoAuto understands that Suzuki will also establish a plant in Thailand within about 18 months, which could also produce the Splash. Thailand has free trade agreements with many nations including Australia, and a factory there would give Suzuki a deep-sea port with direct shipping access to markets including Australia.

If sold here, the Splash is unlikely to arrive within two years, by which time Suzuki Australia will have launched a facelifted SX4 small-car (in early 2010), the all-new Kizashi medium sedan (in the second quarter of 2010), the redesigned Swift (around mid-2011) and a new seven-seat SUV, due here in 2012.

What’s coming from Suzuki:
Alto August
Swift RE4 LE August
Swift safety pack August
SX4 facelift Q1 2010
Kizashi Q2 2010
New Swift 2011
New seven-seat SUV 2012
Splash 2013

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