No Surprise: Suzuki Shrinking In America, Killing Its Dealers

By Blake Z. Rong | April 17, 2012
Pop quiz: When was the last time you saw a new Suzuki car? We mean a new one, not a ratty Esteem on the side of the freeway, and certainly not of the two-wheeled variety. The painfully underrated Kisazhi is a unicorn on these roads. The SX4 dates to Indian-car levels of age. The Vitara is only outclassed by the X90 in terms of SUV ambiguity, and at least the X90 had a certain legitimate charm all to itself. When was the last time you drove past a Suzuki dealer that sells the four-wheeled, air-conditioned kind? Exactly. Suzuki is barely a blip on the American automotive radar, as formidable a presence as a Mawblang Toad to the Lusitania. A sinking ship seems cliché but entirely appropriate in this case. But the lack of Suzuki vehicles on the road is merely a glimpse into how bad it is at American Suzuki. The company has lost dealerships every year since 2005. Its Facebook and Twitter accounts have been suspended and it hasn't shown up at Detroit and Los Angeles, two of the biggest auto shows of the year. US marketing executive Steve Younan left in January, and has not—or will not—be replaced. In an automotive market that increased 13 percent this year, Suzuki only sold 6,561 cars, or about how many Camrys that Toyota's Georgetown, Kentucky plant excretes before lunch. About 150 of Suzuki's 246 remaining dealers sell about 5 cars per month, but the company offered $50,000 to its underperforming dealers to bail out on them. How many took up the offer? About 50. What's Suzuki doing about this? Not much, it seems. Suzuki is "very much focused on short-term profitability," says an anonymous source, and "they seem to be more interested in controlling expenses than increasing revenue," says another. Newly-named leadership from Japan and Canada have been interested in cutting costs instead of spending money—on advertising, on new product development, and on attracting dealers, and even on showing off their wares. A facelift for the Vitara and SX4 failed to manifest itself at any of the auto shows this year, even though it had a measly little stand in the corner next to the Chinese cars.  Well, at least it had a Super Bowl ad. "The strange thing to me is, even at this bare minimum, when the opportunity is presented to make some news and provide something positive for customers and the dealers, they avoid it," put an anonymous source, bluntly. But enough pontificating about declining sales, lost market shares, angry dealers, and other morbid signs of horse-corpse-kicking. What can Suzuki do to regain its market share? Stop cutting costs when this is a time to spend, spend, spend on advertising. Fast-track a replacement for the SX4, because that car's been around for 6 years and even Joan Rivers is tired of making fun of it. Kill the dumpy Equator: Suzuki sold about 2,000 of the rebadged Nissan trucks last year. Nissan sold 51,700 Frontiers. And somehow, some way, capture the magic that Suzuki still holds in their legendary motorcycle and ATV division—start putting Hayabusa motors in the Kizashi? Build a SX4 Sportback GSX-R? How about an amphibious Vitara powered by a V-6 outboard motor? Remember, this was the company that once ingrained an entire generation of automotive enthusiasts (and today, journalists) with a thousand-horsepower Escudo. Not many companies can bank off that sort of recognition. It's a cruel Catch-22 that Suzuki needs to sell more cars to get money for marketing, but it can't market its cars in order to sell them. But when you're a company this small and this recognized, there's an opportunity to take more chances, to break boundaries and invent more games to tiresomely change. What's Suzuki going to do, continue to not sell cars? It's not like those guys aren't used to that. Just ask Steve Younan. Or you can ask his successor that hasn't been hired yet. It's either that or pull an Isuzu and leave America...while keeping the seat warm for Mitsubishi. How depressing is that? Source: Automotive News
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ANDY MATTHEWS
ANDY MATTHEWS

I HAVE BEEN IN THE JAPANESE NEW CAR MARKET SINCE 1989. I HAVE SOLD EVERYTHING FROM HONDA TO TOYOTA, MAZDA, MITSUBISHI, EVEN SOLD DAEWOOS (FOR THE 18 MONTHS FRANCHISES WERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA. THAT SAID, I HAD NEVER SEEN OR EVEN HEARD OF THE KIZASHI. THIS CAR IS - HANDS DOWN- SUPERIOR TO ANYTHING THAT TOYOTA-HONDA-NISSAN AND ESPECIALLY THE KOREAN DUO THAT NEARLY FLOUNDERED NOT SO LONG AGO. THE KIZASHI (ALONE) CAN MAKE A BELIEVER OUT OF ANYONE THAT MANAGES TO JUST DRIVE ONE . I PROMISE YOU THIS, THE MAJORITY WILL FORGET WHATEVER IT WAS THEY WERE GOING TO BUY AND AS FOR THE REST, WELL EVEN IDIOTS HAVE OPINIONS. GO GET YOUR SNOTTA GLS INSTEAD OF THE KIZASHII GTS THAT COST LESS, HAS THE CRAFTMANSHIP AND MATERIALS OF THE FINEST BRAVARIA HAS TO OFFER AND TECHNOLOGY THAT WOULD HAVE INSPIRED THE LATE GREAT MR. JOBS. !!GET THIS CAR INTO THE AMERICAN MAINSTREAM, IF YOU CAN'T FIGURE OUT A WAY, CALL ME AT KING SUZUKI OF HICKORY NC, I AM A GREAT PROBLEM SOLVER. KIZASHI UNDER THE RADAR? IN COUNTRY? DURING THE INFORMATION AGE (FULL OF OPEN MINDED COLLEGE GRAD'S)? THIS SHOULD BE THE EASIEST FIX THE U S AUTOMOTIVE MARKET WILL EXPERIENCE-I WILL GUARANTEE THIS. TRY ME:) SUZUKI USA, PLEASE TAKE HEED, PLEASE-YOU HAVE MY CONTACT INFO-MOBILE IS 704-883-2749. LETS SET IT ON FIRE!!

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