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Swift and iV-4 to boost Suzuki Australia

Back on track: Suzuki’s Swift hatch has seen something of a turnaround in sales from the start of the year to June.

Suzuki Australia boss reveals barrage of cars to come as the brand fights back

Suzuki logo30 Jul 2014

By RICHARD BERRY

SUZUKI Australia is starting to claw back some of the ground it lost at the start of the year and it has big plans for 2015, including a new hero SUV, according to its new local chief.

In January this year the Japanese car-maker sold 1150 units, which is a 37 .3 per cent drop over its January 2013 haul of 1834 and its lowest overall monthly figure since April 2006 when it sold 951 units.

Sales have picked up after a slow start to the year, but overall year-to-date sales of 8833 are down by 24.4 per cent compared with the same period in 2013 when it shifted 11,686 units.

Speaking with GoAuto, Suzuki Australia general manager Andrew Moore said the company saw an upturn in sales in June compared with the start of the year, which is a result of having a healthier supply of its best-selling model, the Swift light-hatch.

“We moved Swift production from a plant in Thailand back to our Sagara plant in Japan in September 2013,” Mr Moore explained.

The decision to move production from the Thai plant to Japan came about because the Swift had become popular in Thailand and this limited the number of cars the country could offer to other markets.

“Swift was very successful in Thailand so production became a bit unreliable - because if the domestic market needs cars that’s a priority over export.”

The change in plant, however, also affected the availability of Swifts.

“With that change we weren’t able to access as many vehicles in the first quarter of this year. So where we would normally sell 700-800 Swifts we were limited to around 400 for the first few months. I’m talking exclusive of Queensland here which is a separate distributor.”

Swift sales totaled 486 units in January but by June this figure jumped by 133 per cent to 1131. While 131 were sold in Queensland under the control of the state’s distributor the Suzuki Auto Company, the remaining 1000 Swifts sold throughout the rest of the country by Suzuki Australia.

Mr Moore said the Swift was the number one car in the light segment for private buyers, but Suzuki Australia declined to give GoAuto a breakdown of private and fleet car buyers.

Mr Moore – who started as general manager of Suzuki Australia on June 1 this year after seven years as the company’s national sales manager – said he sees a big comeback for the company, lead by the Swift, but supported by the recently launched S-Cross compact SUV and later by other models, including a production version of the iV-4 SUV.

“I want Swift to be the number one light segment vehicle to private customers.

That’s a key objective,” he said. “We’ve achieved that in May and June and we want to keep achieving that month in and month out – that’s where we want to be.”

June marked the best sales month for the S-Cross compact SUV since it arrived in Australia in December last year, with 240 units shifted to boost its year-to-date total to 906.

The boost came after Suzuki announced a reduction in the S-Cross entry price to $22,990 driveaway in May this year.

Mr Moore said the company is hoping the S-Cross will grow further in the coming months and become a core model for the brand, as a part of a wider plan to boost its SUV line-up.

“S-Cross, our new model – we really want to build that and entrench that as a key car for customers in the growing small-SUV segment.

“There’s also the SUV based on the iV-4 concept car that will come out just after the middle of next year so we want to build our small SUV leadership with that car selling alongside S-Cross.”

The iV-4 concept made its international debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 2013 and Mr Moore has high hopes for the compact SUV when it arrives in 2015.

“In terms of size it’s a similar size to S-Cross, but it obviously has a much higher ride - more of an SUV body, so in terms of where it sits I’d like to see it as an alternative for any customer looking for at small SUV or medium SUV.

“It’s also for people looking at a small hatch who want something with a bit more style, a bit different, bit more cargo space – this could be an option for them as well.

“I think iV-4’s got the potential to be like Swift is for Suzuki. I think it can be a leader. I went and saw it in Japan two weeks ago and I was extremely impressed and I would definitely say that it could achieve a Swift-like position for Suzuki. I’m very confident that it will sell extremely well for Suzuki.

“The SUV space is growing enormously, so Suzuki is going to be firmly entrenched in that space with S-Cross and Iv4 and Grand Vitara.”

While a name for the production version of the iV-4 has yet to be confirmed, Mr Moore said he has perused a list of possible contenders, but that it’s unlikely to be called Vitara, he said.

Along with the iV-4, Mr Moore said 2015 will see the arrival of the Celerio micro hatch which will replace the Alto as the entry to the local Suzuki line-up.

“Those two cars are the first in a barrage of new product, including at least one or two new Suzuki models every year for the next five years.”

Mr Moore said the biggest challenge Suzuki faces is the sheer number of makes and models on offer in the local market.

“I think the number one challenge in Australia is it’s such a competitive marketplace and there are so many brands – we’ve got more brands than the US and everybody is pushing very hard to grow their sales and you’ve got to give the customer a lot of value.”

Mr Moore said Suzuki’s strengths are the brand’s four-wheel drive heritage, plus its focus on building safe, reliable, fun cars to drive.

The company is planning a number of nation-wide promotional campaigns to boost the brand, through television shows such as The Block and sponsorship of National Rugby League team, the Melbourne Storm.

The Swift is by far the best selling car for Suzuki in Australia, with 4506 units sold in the first six months of the year, accounting for more than half of the company’s 8833 total sales, although it is down by 23.6 per cent over the January to June haul last year.

Sales of Suzuki’s mid-size Kizashi sedan have taken a 53.5 per cent hit so far this year, with just 177 units finding homes in Australia compared with 381 in the same period last year.

The Alto micro car has dipped by 48 per cent, and Grand Vitara by 36 per cent, while the APV light-commercial van is up 17 per cent to 281 units so far this year.

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