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Suzuki's forward thrust

Showstopper: Concept X points to next XL-7 SUV.

New models from Suzuki set to double Australian sales within 36 months

28 Feb 2005

SUZUKI Australia’s crucial new Swift small car has heralded a new-model influx the Japanese brand believes will double its sales volume inside three years.

Set to be as critical to the brand’s fortunes as the Swift, the all-new Grand Vitara is on the horizon, due to be unveiled in August ahead of an Australian International Motor Show launch in October.

Expected to be larger, significantly more spacious inside and with much improved on-road behaviour, this third generation model is claimed to maintain the current vehicle’s renowned off-road performance with a still-to-be-unveiled new chassis/monocoque construction.

Three variants will arrive – two-door and four-door wagon guises as well as a soft-top – powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine and Suzuki’s version of General Motors’ Global V6 engine, believed to be around 2.7 litres.

The new model is expected to include Suzuki’s new European-focussed dynamic and packaging abilities laid out in the 2005 Swift.

The Concept X show car from Detroit gives big visual clues away, although that vehicle is expected to form the basis for the larger XL-7 replacement, which finally breaks away from its current Grand Vitara confines.

"It is totally different product, sharing no commonality with the Grand Vitara," Suzuki Australia General Manager for Automobiles, David Le Mottee, told GoAuto.

Due in mid-2006, XL-7 will continue to be a seven-seater – albeit a much more accommodating one than the current model – and will bolster the Australian range, which by that time will also have in its midst a new, larger iteration of its long serving Carry light-commercial van. Keen pricing for the latter is promised.

Late in 2006, or in the first quarter of 2007, Suzuki Australia will also expand its small-car portfolio with the Liana replacement.

"The Liana replacement is still sketchy," Mr Le Mottee said. "There’s a new European small segment car coming out next year, around the size of the VW Golf, that will run alongside the current Liana for a while." A monocoque-chassis crossover wagon based on this car will also appear, expected to be about the same size as today’s Grand Vitara.

A new direction for Suzuki will be the implementation of a seven-seat, budget-oriented people-mover set to take some share from Kia’s super-successful Carnival. Little is known about this MPV vehicle except that Australian buyers should see it sometime during 2007 – the year Mr Le Mottee believes Australian Suzuki sales will touch 16,000.

"It is a clearly defined objective and we will do that through new models," he said. With the help of the new Swift, Grand Vitara and APV, around 9500 are forecast for 2005 – a substantial leap from last year’s 7206 total, which was a mere 181 units ahead of 2003.

Mr Le Mottee said his 350-per-month Swift forecast was conservative, and that consumers would respond to improvements in Suzuki’s quality. Up to 150 per month extra can be accessed from the manufacturing plant in Japan if needed.

"We’ve always had a product that has been price and features competitive, but we said (to Suzuki in Japan) that we wanted something technically high-class - cutting edge - and quality-competitive," he said.

"If you said to me, ‘What do you want on a wish list?’ - they’ve delivered it with the new Swift." Developed in Europe, the new Swift has "laid down the exciting future path for Suzuki globally", according to Mr Le Mottee, who added that it took shape around a totally new mindset.

"Suzuki is, and will be, at the cutting edge of production, technology and innovation," he said. There will be an emphasis on test tracks, distribution capability and what Mr Le Mottee refered to "Suzuki’s totally integrated research and development philosophy that’s second to none." None of the future models are scheduled to appear globally as rebadged Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Holdens, Subarus or Daewoos, a strategy that – in the eyes of local Suzuki management, at least – has served to undermine the marque’s brand value.

According to Mr Le Mottee, there will no longer be consideration given to Daewoo-badged Suzukis in Australia, as is the case in North America.

The bottom line is that Suzuki globally is keen to rid itself of the dependable but dull image models like the current Vitara and Ignis light car have helped harvest.

30 center image "We want people to make an emotional connection with our cars," Suzuki board member for overseas marketing, Hirotaka Ono, told GoAuto late last year.

Suzuki hopes the new model rollout propels it in a new direction that promotes a "way of life" and not just transportation. Aggressive marketing to a younger demographic using television is a key strategy, starting this week with under-35 potential Swift buyers.

"If we can hook the younger female buyers then everything will fall into place," Mr Le Motee said.

The fourth-largest car manufacturer in Japan and 12th worldwide, Suzuki’s current global sales volume of 1.9 million units puts it ahead of Mazda, Subaru and Mitsubishi.

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