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Suzuki Australia is on Splash watch

Small Suzi: Splash's local fate won't be known for six months.

Suzuki's new micro hatch is odds-on to make a splash here for less than $15,000

1 Jun 2007

SUZUKI'S new Splash hatchback could allow Suzuki Australia to plunge below the $15,000 mark. Details were released earlier this month on the Japanese manufacturer's new sub-Swift light car, ahead of its official unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show in September.

Speaking to GoAuto last week, new Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers said that while no decision had been made, the Splash was under consideration for local sale and its chances were good.

"We will be evaluating that car," he said. "The odds are with it and the likelihood is that we will take it, but we really don't know the details at this stage."Pricing is likely to be the key issue with the Splash, as it would have to compete in the cutthroat light-car segment against established players like the Toyota Yaris, Holden Barina and Hyundai Getz.

"We are probably six months away from determining how much it would cost," Mr Devers said. "That segment is growing and it would represent a great volume opportunity for us, but it is too early to tell if we will take it."The Splash is a tall city car with space efficiency and miserly fuel consumption its main selling points.

In Europe the car will be offered with new Suzuki-developed petrol engines – a 48kW 1.0-litre three-cylinder and a 63kW 1.2-litre four-cylinder. A 55kW 1.3-litre General Motors turbo-diesel, produced under licence by Suzuki in India, will also be available in Europe.

A five-speed manual has been announced as the standard transmission and no automatic gearbox has been announced at this stage.

If the Splash was to come to Australia, it is likely that only the more powerful 1.2-litre engine would make it.

Mr Devers said the Splash could attract a lot of Australian buyers who are warming to smaller and more efficient models.

"The trend for Australian motorists is to downsize and that includes both the size of the car and the engine," he said. "People are more accepting of smaller engines because of their economy and the fact that the power and torque is still adequate."An Opel version of the Splash will also be launched at Frankfurt. The Agila, which will also be sold in England as a Vauxhall, is almost identical to the Splash and both models will be built at Suzuki’s Hungarian factory. Australian Splash models would be sourced from Suzuki in Japan.

30 center imageGM Holden would not comment on whether it planned to sell a version of the Agila/Splash in Australia, but it is believed the car is not under consideration.

Suzuki Australia would like to have the Splash to complement the Swift hatch, which has been a sales hit for the company since it was introduced in 2005. The company is keen to introduce other models that could generate comparable volume to Swift, which currently accounts for 66 per cent of all Suzuki Australia sales.

Mr Devers said the company’s reliance on the Swift will reduce as new models arrive and supply problems are resolved.

He said the company planned to introduce four new models by 2010, including a mid-sized sedan that is expected to arrive in 2009.

The European designed and developed mid-sized sedan would come standard with all-wheel-drive and compete against the Subaru Liberty, Mr Devers said.

Another model that is high on the priority list at Suzuki Australia is the replacement for the XL-7 SUV, which was phased out in 2005. The current-generation XL-7, which never came to Australia, is only produced in left-hand drive.

Mr Devers said new "more European" crossover wagon would fill the gap left by the XL-7 in the Australian line-up, although he would not confirm an arrival date.

Mr Devers ruled out following a Suzuki US plan to sell Suzuki-badged versions of GM Daewoo product.

He said Suzuki Australia would only introduce models made in Japan, arguing that this would give his company an edge over other competitors who were now sourcing several cars from Thailand and South Korea.

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