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Suzuki Australia targets top 10 by 2017

Expansion: The XA Alpha concept from this year's Delhi motor show points to a possible new sub-Grand Vitara member of the Suzuki range in the near future.

A wider product range to spearhead Suzuki’s re-doubled assault on Australia

23 Feb 2012

SUZUKI has announced plans to achieve a top-10 place in the Australian sales charts inside the next five years by expanding its range into new segments and widening its dealer network.

Suzuki Australia managing director Masaaki Kato said at the recent launch of the new Swift Sport hot hatch that the brand aimed to finish 10th “or even higher” by 2017.

“My goal for the brand is quite simple – to make Suzuki one of the top manufacturers here,” he said. “I have strong confidence that we have the right product in the pipeline to achieve this goal.” Suzuki finished 2011 as the 12th most popular brand with 23,778 sales, trailing brands such as 11th-placed Kia (25,128 sales) and 10th-placed Honda (30,107).

Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers said the brand’s target for 2012 was 26,000 units, equating to around 2.6 per cent market share.

The brand has performed below expectations so far in 2012, with January sales 21 per cent down over the same month last year, including a 70.5 per cent drop in sales of its Alto micro-car.

128 center imageFrom top: Suzuki Australia managing director Masaaki Kato, general manager Tony Devers, Kizashi Turbo concept, Alto, Grand Vitara and Splash.

VFACTS figures released this week also show sales in February were down 14.1 per cent, although the 1851 units recorded last month was an improvement over the 1667 achieved in January.

Mr Devers said the brand had been unable to get fresh supplies of Alto – one of Australia’s cheapest new vehicles – due to an industrial dispute at the Maruti plant in India where it is built.

“From the end of November we did not have an Alto in our stock,” he said. “The Maruti plant in India lost three months of production. We get our first shipments of Alto next month, so look out.”

Mr Devers said that any wage increases secured by Indian unions would not be passed on to buyers in the form of higher Alto prices here, citing improved efficiency at the plant.

The Alto currently kicks off from $11,790.

Leapfrogging Kia and Honda in the next half-decade will be tough. Honda has a raft of new product in the pipeline including new generations of the popular Civic and CR-V, while Kia is also projecting double-digit sales growth in Australia in 2012.

The Korean brand’s growth is likely to stem from the release of three-door and sedan versions of the Rio light car earlier this month, plus the arrival of a heavily facelifted Sorento SUV later this year and better supply of the Sportage and Optima.

Mr Devers told GoAuto that Suzuki’s medium-term growth would predominately come from “new models in segments we don’t participate in now”.

“Currently, we only participate in about 45 per cent of the segments, so we have got to get new vehicles like a smaller SUV and a larger SUV something like a Mazda CX-7.

“We’ve got some new models coming down the track.

“These will be additional cars to our current range. That’s what we need to mix it with Volkswagen and Kia and things like that, because they have such a broad range.”

Mr Devers confirmed that among these possible additions could be a production version of the XA Alpha concept crossover revealed at the Delhi motor show in January this year, and said that there was scope to broaden the uses of the existing Kizashi model architecture into spin-off models such as a softer SUV.

Other variations of the Kizashi sedan – such as a wagon, V6 or turbo (as first seen at the Sydney motor show in 2010) – are also a possibility in the next few years.

Mr Devers said the GFC had forced the brand to go with more volume-oriented versions initially, but stated that “when the economic times are ripe, those cars will come back in”.

The future of a third model to slot between the Swift and Alto – called the Splash in European showrooms – remains up in the air, with a viable business case unlikely to be established until production begins at the company’s new $251 million plant in Thailand’s Rayong province.

In terms of the brand’s existing line-up, Australia will have to wait for the next-generation Grand Vitara.

Mr Devers told GoAuto that a replacement for the rugged compact SUV – which dates back to 2005 in current guise – is still “18 months to two years away”.

In the meantime, the brand will have to make do with a facelifted version set to arrive in the second half of this year, which Mr Devers said will have significant cosmetic upgrades.

This will be joined by upgraded versions of the Alto and SX4 in the second half of the year.

Suzuki Australia has also opened up eight new dealers in the past two months, including facilities in Sydney – to replace the now-closed Rick Damelian operation – and Alice Springs, as well as regional areas such as Renmark, Echuca and Goulburn. A new dealership will also open in Rockdale on March 1.

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