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Suzuki capitalising on evolving market

Little mover: Suzuki’s little Ignis has joined the line-up with an atmo four-cylinder and front drive but it could be followed by turbo and all-paw variants.

Slowing large-car market boosts long-term small-SUV appeal says Suzuki

18 Jan 2017

SUZUKI is planning to continue its consistent growth in the Australian new-car market with a range of small SUVs that will slot into shifting buyer preferences and the move away from large sedans such as the departing Holden Commodore and already discontinued Ford Falcon.

A decline in the demand for large passenger vehicles coinciding with the end of Australian vehicle manufacturing has partly fuelled the nation’s SUV boom, but Suzuki says its range of smaller crossovers will be well established in time for customers to downsize from the predominantly large and mid-sized model pool.

Speaking at the launch of the company’s new Ignis baby crossover, Suzuki Australia general manager Andrew Moore said that in time, customers who had jumped on the large and mid-sized SUV bandwagon would eventually be looking to downsize.

“A big consideration for us with this car is ... over the last five to ten years those people are moving out of family cars that were Commodores and Falcons,” he said. “In the next five years, people will be moving out of family cars to downsize and coming out of (larger) SUVs.”

If Australian customers behave as Mr Moore predicts, Suzuki’s range of small passenger cars, SUVs and crossovers will be primed to mop up the demand, which has now blossomed to three small hatchbacks and three small SUVs.

Mr Moore explained that the Suzuki Swift had the slowing large-car market to thank for its consistent popularity and that the industry New Vehicle Buyers Survey was a valuable resource in predicting future demand.

“With the Swift, we know how many previously owned a Ford Falcon or a Holden Commodore and that was a big driver – people coming out of those large cars,” he said.

With the lessons learned from the long-standing Swift, Mr Moore said the company was aligned with the expected changes in the Australian car market and well prepared to continue growing.

While the Swift has been Suzuki’s cash cow for some time, its recently introduced Vitara is topping up the numbers with between 700 and 500 monthly sales, while the new Ignis has the potential to do the same said Mr Moore.

Suzuki’s customer base is predominantly female and while Mr Moore does not expect the introduction of Ignis to dramatically change the ratio, he did say the new model was likely to attract more equal numbers of male and female shoppers.

“We’re nearly 70 per cent female customers and I think we will still be to that sort of number, but I reckon this will have a greater male appeal as well. It’s a bit tougher and you can trick it up a bit,” he said.

Beyond the initial single engine, front-drive, two-variant line-up Mr Moore said a four-wheel-drive version could arrive at a later date, adding a more all-terrain happy Ignis to the range.

“I’ve got the four-wheel drive on the radar to bring in down the track,” he said.

In time the range could even expand to include a sporty version of the bantamweight crossover, with Mr Moore pressing the Japanese factory for a version powered by the Baleno’s 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine.

“We are pushing, along with some other markets, saying we believe there is great opportunity for a turbo – probably the 1.0-litre turbo. It’s a perfect fit.”

If successful, the Ignis turbo would offer an effervescent performance version of the compact SUV market with 82kW and 160Nm.

While performance versions and all-paw traction would sit comfortably in the local line-up, Mr Moore said he believed a mild hybrid version that is offered in other regions was possible, but less likely to find its way into showrooms.

“There’s potential and it’s something we have been talking about internally,” he said. “What it comes down to is the fuel figure of about 3.5L/100km, so you’re talking 4.7L/100km to 3.5L/100km is that enough for a customer to pay about a $2000 price difference.”

It is early days for the Ignis but if it performs better than the expected 400 units per month, Mr Moore said the company would be requesting more choice for Australian customers.

“If it was the number-one selling Suzuki, I’d be going back to the factory and saying I want another variant”.

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