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Splash will slot under Suzuki’s new Swift

Splash, not slash: Suzuki is likely to increase Swift prices to make way for the Splash.

Suzuki Oz confirms Splash will fit between Alto and new Swift in light-car onslaught

18 Oct 2010

SUZUKI has confirmed it plans to release the Splash in Australia, where it will slot in between the sub-$12,000 Alto and the all-new Swift due on sale here in March.

To shoe-horn the Euro-centric Splash into its burgeoning light-sized hatchback range, however, Suzuki is likely to lift the starting price of the Swift, which made its southern hemisphere debut on Friday only two weeks after its world debut in Paris.

Speaking at the Sydney motor show, Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers told GoAuto the strong Australian currency should allow the Splash to be imported sooner than expected from the Hungarian plant where it is produced.

Previously, Suzuki said it would await production of the redesigned Splash at the company’s new Thailand plant from 2012 before releasing the model Down Under.

30 center imageLeft: Suzuki Splash. Below: Suzuki Alto, Suzuki Swift.

“We’re evaluating Splash,” revealed Mr Devers. “If everything comes to pass, we’d have Alto, Splash and Swift.

“As you know, it’s been in Europe and we would love to be able to get it from our new Thai factory when that comes on board.

“If not, we’re also looking – because of (favourable) exchange rates – at whether we can get it from our plant in Hungary. We’re talking to the factory now if it comes off, it comes off.”

Mr Devers said the Hungarian Splash business case depended on cost.

“The Euro is a hard currency to work with and there’s (extra) shipping costs… However, we’re used to that with cars coming from India, which take six to eight weeks to arrive, so we’re up for that.

“We’re also pretty happy with the average (of the Australian dollar’s value against the Euro) over the last 12 months. It’s still on the drawing-board.”

If Splash was sold here before 2012, Australians are likely to be offered the mild mid-life makeover revealed at the Paris motor show on September 30, with both manual and automatic transmissions.

Suzuki believes the car, which has been under consideration for a local launch since before the 1.0-litre Alto arrived here in July 2009, could easily be sold alongside the slightly smaller, Indian-built Alto that is currently available from $12,490 drive-away.

“I think they’re different cars. In Europe, the Splash is a family car, because it’s tall and spacious and engine-wise it has a 1.2.”

Mr Devers ruled out a price-leading 1.0-litre version of the Splash, which he said would cannibalise sales of the Alto.

“We’d have to position Alto, Splash and Swift separately, because what you want is incremental volume from each model you bring in,” he said.

However, expect the new Swift to come with a higher admission price to make way for Splash.

Asked if there was room in its light-car range for the Splash, Mr Devers said: “It depends on where we position Swift. I think you’ll find there’ll be enough volume around the light segment to justify two models in there.”

Does that mean Suzuki would be forced to increase the entry price of the current Swift, which is now in run-out priced from $16,990 drive-away?“Yes… we’d like to get back up to the RRP (recommended retail price), which is more like $17,500 or something.”

Suzuki’s expanded city-car strategy is similar to that of Holden, which launched the sub-light-sized Barina Spark hatch at Sydney and will release an all-new Barina hatch and sedan alongside it within 12 months – around the same time Toyota’s redesigned Yaris light-car will go on sale here.

Similarly, Nissan plans to introduce Pulsar-badged replacements for the Tiida alongside a sedan version of the new sub-$13,000 Micra hatch, which itself will be available with a wider range of engine, transmission and equipment choices from next month.

“We’d love to (keep the current price-point),” said Mr Devers. “It’s all very aggressive… everybody’s not necessarily looked at us but they’ve looked at the light and sub-light segments – it’s the fastest growing segment and everybody wants a piece of the action.

“Getting the right specifications in the right model at the right price is the issue. We’ve all set the price line under $17,000 and that’s where the segment is.

“The main issue for those buyers is price and style. The market’s very aggressive and we need to be as close to the current price as possible.”

Mr Devers said he was not concerned about the release of the Barina Spark and – potentially – the Indian-built i10 from Hyundai, which he expects will help create greater awareness of micro-cars in general.

“We were pioneers in that sub-light segment, so we’ve got a foothold – it’s always best to be first. It’s all good competition, and they may help to grow the segment.

“When there’s more activity there’s more information coming out, so that can only benefit. I’m always confident in our product, so we’ll get our fair share.”

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