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Suzuki looks to Thailand for Swift

Thai take-away: The popular Suzuki Swift has a new source and some new features.

Thai-made Suzuki Swift on the cards for Australia – and maybe Alto too

20 Apr 2012

SUZUKI Australia is looking to Thailand for supplies of its top-selling Swift small car that currently comes from Japan, but probably not until at least next year.

A second model – perhaps the entry level Alto hatch or the slightly bigger Splash – might also come out of Suzuki’s new $250 million Thai plant that opened at Rayong last month to produce Swift, initially for local markets.

Suzuki’s Australian outpost currently sources all of its models from Japan, except the Indian-built Alto.

Like almost every other Japanese manufacturer, Suzuki is looking to Thailand to produce cheaper products that can take advantage of the Asian kingdom’s free-trade agreements with many countries, including Australia.

Asked if Suzuki Australia would source Swift from Thailand, now that its new plant was up and running, communications manager Andrew Ellis told GoAuto: “We are definitely talking with them.”

Mr Ellis said the plant was still in its start up phase, and probably would not be in a position to export until next year.

The Bangkok Post reported this week that Suzuki’s new Thai plant would build a second small car alongside the Swift, saying it would be “based around the next-generation Alto”.

30 center imageLeft: Suzuki Alto and Splash.

However, the Europe-targeted Splash five-door hatchback – made in Hungary and India – also has been mentioned in dispatches for Thai production at some point.

In size and prestige, the Splash (called Ritz in India) slots in between the Alto and Swift. As it has been around for four years in Europe, another generation is likely to be in the wings for release, possibly next year.

If Alto goes into production in Thailand under that country’s ‘eco-car’ scheme that rewards manufacturers with a range of benefits, it would be tempting for Suzuki Australia to switch its source from the current Suzuki Maruti factory in India.

Suzuki Australia recently lost hundreds of Alto sales due to a prolonged strike at the Indian plant. This year, Alto sales were depressed until last month, returning to near-normal levels in March when the company’s dealer network delivered 340 units.

Easy shipping, a reputation for quality and the free-trade agreement would be other reasons Suzuki Australia could consider the change of factory, should Alto/Splash touch down in Thailand.

If Suzuki Australia does sign up for Thai production, it will join Honda, Ford, Nissan – and from later this year Mitsubishi – to source small or light cars from that country.

Toyota Australia has also expressed a desire to switch its small vehicle production to Thailand from Japan to cut costs, should production slots become available.

Toyota’s HiLux and almost every other one-tonne ute sold in Australia (except the up-market, Spanish-sourced D40 Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok) also come from Thailand.

Meanwhile, Suzuki’s Chinese joint venture with Changan Automobile is building a second manufacturing plant in the western Chinese city of Chongqing.

Due to open in the third quarter of 2013, the new plant will double Suzuki production in China to 500,000 units a year.

However, Suzuki expects all of those cars to be gobbled up by the Chinese domestic market.

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