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Suzuki ready to make a Splash

Its new baby car, Splash, is aimed straight at Europe and Asia and will also be coming to Australia in a worldwide move which will see production spread through Hungary, Japan and India.

The Splash was previewed as a concept car at the Paris motor show last year and follows the successful introduction of the Euro-style Swift and SX-4 wagon.

An SX-4 sedan is coming later in the year and Suzuki is also expected to unveil at least two other all-new models before the end of 2007, including the Camry-sized car, which company executives spoke about to CARSguide in Japan last year.

“Over the next three years we will have a half-dozen new models in segments where we don't currently participate,” the general manager of Suzuki Australia, Tony Devers, says.

“We'll have the mini-car segment with Splash and further down the track we'll have the mid-sized car. And then other products that I don't want to talk about at present.

“It's a big push for Suzuki.”

The Splash is based on the same mechanical package as the Swift, a former winner of the CARSguide Car of the Year award, but is significantly smaller. It is only 3.7m long but stands 1.6m tall.

The safety package includes six airbags and electronic stability control.

The Splash will be sold in Europe with both 1.0-litre and 1.3-litre petrol engines, as well as a 1.3-litre diesel — and Suzuki has forecast sales of some 60,000 cars a year from its factory in Hungary.

However, sales will not begin until early in 2008 and the final production car will not be unveiled until Germany's Frankfurt motor show in September.

Suzuki will not confirm the Splash for Australia, but senior Japanese executives have already said it will be imported.

The only likely change is that local deliveries will be of Japanese-made cars, rather than from the new Splash production line being established in India.

“We are evaluating it, but we would only get it out of Japan,” Devers says. “It will probably come in around 18 months to two years.”

Devers says there is real potential for the Splash, which would be a sub-$15,000 car and smaller than most of the existing cars in the light-car category, such as the Hyundai Getz and Kia Rio.

“It's positioned under Swift and that's a segment that's starting to grow,” Devers says.

“The cars are quite small but large inside. For Australia, the whole trend in the industry is towards fuel efficiency and smaller cars.

“There has been a trend for five to 10 years. If you look at Corolla ... it is not a small car these days. Swift is the size that Corolla and Civic were five years ago, and the Splash will be in the new mini segment. Our consumers are moving towards where Europe has already gone. The light segment is going to boom and this is probably under that.”

Devers says the Splash is also a sign of Suzuki's commitment to its globalisation, moving away from the super-small Japanese Kei-class cars it has built for decades.

“Suzuki has made a strategic decision,” he says. “It has been the mini-car leader in Japan for 15 years but is now looking to build bigger cars for a global push.

“It's a big, big decision. But it's being done so they can tune the production for larger cars and a worldwide push.

“Suzuki already sells more cars than Honda, Mazda and Subaru in Europe. It's only Australia and America where it lags.

“There is an American focus, but Australia is important too, because we're now a million-vehicle market.”

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