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SUZUKI AT THE CROSSROADS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Jul 15, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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India's best-seller: The Maruti Suzuki Alto By Roy Nakano Suzuki is the biggest little car company in the industry. It’s the second largest Japanese manufacturer of small cars and trucks. It’s the ninth largest automobile manufacturer in the world. A number of cute little Suzukis—largely unseen in this country—roam the world and are responsible for much of the company’s global success. So why isn’t the company dominating the American market? But wait, there’s more. Suzuki is also the maker of some of the hottest motorcycles around, including the Hayabusa. When the Hayabusa came out, it won acclaim as the world’s fastest production motorcycle of the 20th century. The Hayabusa had a top speed of 188-194, before a voluntary limit of 186 mph was imposed via an agreement between Japanese and European manufacturers. However, its ability to run the quarter mile from a standing start in less than 10 seconds remains unimpeded to this day.

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Suzuki won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb for the last 5 consecutive years In India, where the car industry is growing by leaps and bounds, Suzuki’s subsidiary, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, does dominate the market. The Maruti Alto is India’s biggest volume seller. Suzuki’s dominance in India is one of the reasons that led to Volkswagen’s decision to purchase a significant share of Suzuki stock earlier this year. With all the worldwide activity tipping in Suzuki’s favor, it’s a wonder that the company’s success in the USA doesn’t mirror its global success. It may just be a matter of time, as the company’s recent offerings in this domestic market have dialed up the desireability quotient significantly.

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Suzuki Grand Vitara The first model to reflect Suzuki’s new design direction was the current-generation Grand Vitara. Introduced in the Fall of 2005 and given a makeover in 2008, the vehicle looks as good today as it did when it first rolled off the assembly line. Next came the SX4. Suzuki partnered with Fiat on the SX4 Sportback design. It looks a lot like a car you’d see in Europe—and that’s because it’s penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign studio, and Fiat markets the same car for sale under its Italian moniker. LA Car spent some time behind the wheel of the new Sportback edition of the refreshened 2010 model of the SX4. In addition to the engine, transmission, and chassis upgrades introduced in 2010, the Sportback adds a lowered sport-tuned suspension, body kit and rear spoiler.

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Above: Suzuki's SX4; below: the Kizashi Sport

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The most recent offering from Suzuki is the company’s most ambitious: The Kizashi. Sizewise, the Kizashi falls squarely between the Camry and the Corolla, but it’s a sportier alternative than either. With its attractive base price, the Kizashi is expected to sell well in the USA. In order to stay competitive in this market, however, Suzuki has to do more than rest on the laurels of its current product line. And Suzuki has yet to utilize its strongest card in the car selling game here—i.e., the hot, ultra-compact market. That’s hopefully about to change, as the company readies its next-generation Swift for American consumers. Some readers may remember the Suzuki Swift GTI. Although the car has been absent from these shorts for decades, the MINI-size Swift remains a big seller in both Europe and Asia. But the Swift is just one of the small cars in Suzuki’s global line. Only time will tell if the maker’s other offerings will join the ranks.

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The current-generation Suzuki Swift; the next one is coming here. With all this going on, there should be no time better than now for some critical mass coming from Suzuki. We’ll just sit back and see what happens. It should be a good show.

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For more information about Suzuki products, go to suzukiauto.com

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