Suzuki Australia has confirmed its mid-size Kizashi sedan will arrive in the second quarter of next year, pitched right into the stagnant mid-size segment.
However, Suzuki Australia general manager, Tony Devers, has high hopes for the mid-sizer, which will be pitched directly at the Mazda6 and Honda Euro. "It's a driver's car and we've benchmarked the Mazda6 and Honda Accord Euro," he says.
A Kizashi pre-production car is due to arrive within weeks to start the local homologation process. Devers says when production models become available he also plans to clinic the car among focus groups to see how it goes in front of potential Australian buyers. "This is the biggest passenger car that we've made," he says. "There's a lot riding on it."
The Kizashi will be launched with an entry 2.4-litre front wheel drive version should be around $30,000 with a larger capacity V6 of more than 3.0-litre arriving later. The V6 may also get all-wheel drive.
Ahead of the Kizashi is the new facelifted SX4, which will arrive early next year. "We've dropped the ball on the SX4," Devers says. So far this year Suzuki has sold just 1337 SX4s, down almost 50 per cent over the same period last year.
Devers says the changeover to the new car is to blame. "We lost about three months of production," he says. "We definitely dropped the ball with that car." The facelifted SX4 gets a more powerful 2.0-litre engine but also a 20 per cent fuel economy lift and more equipment.
Devers wants to relaunch the car with more enthusiasm in the marketplace but admits that it goes up against some tough small car competition, like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3. Suzuki plans to push the car's individual styling as well as its all-wheel drive capacity. "AWD represents about 70 per cent of SX4 sales," Devers says. "Well definitely push that more among potential buyers."
The Grand Vitara and Swift remain Suzuki's big cash-cows. Grand Vitara sales are up 12 per cent this year thanks to the addition of the 2.4-litre three-door and the Swift is weathering the overall downturn well, with sales down 14 per cent year to date.
Further out a new-generation Swift and Swift Sport are due in 2011 and Suzuki wants to launch a bigger off-roader above the Grand Vitara around 2012.
Devers says Suzuki's retention rate is lifting as the brand reputation grows thanks to the success of the newer entrants like the Swift. Four years ago Suzuki had a buyer retention rate of just 22 per cent. This has grown to around 60 per cent today.