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Suzuki has announced plans to launch its first battery electric vehicle (BEV) in 2025, understood to be a compact vehicle with a starting price around $AU19,000.
Right now the most affordable all-electric vehicle in Australia is the MG ZS EV ($44,900 driveaway), although it will face challengers in the coming years, in the form of the VW ID.3 and rival Chinese upstart models from GWM and BYD.
However, the announcement does come with a significant catch: the new vehicle will not only be compact, but it will launch in India where the Japanese brand has a dominant market position.
A Suzuki Motor Corp representative told Reuters: “We have been saying that we will enter EV and strong hybrid cars in India by 2025.”
As the proposed EV will be primarily focused on the Indian market, it will be made in right-hand drive, but due to more lax safety standards in India and ever-increasing standards in Australia, it seems unlikely that the vehicle will, at least initially, come to our market.
That said, Suzuki’s Australian operation currently sources the budget-focused Baleno from India and continues to offer the Ignis light SUV in our market as one of the closest vehicles to the subcompact size popular in Japan and India in Australia.
The news of Suzuki’s upcoming budget-focused EV offering comes as the brand signs a new deal with Toyota and Isuzu to collaborate on the electrification and development of autonomous functions for commercial vehicles and “kei”-sized city cars.
The term “Kei car” refers to vehicles which comply to strict city car standards in Japan, it denotes an exact footprint and engine size. These cars account for some 40 per cent of sales in Japan, and each brand is faced with the challenge of developing battery-electric cars for this class at the budget price Japanese consumers are accustomed to for such vehicles. Daihatsu’s president referred to the electrification of Kei-class vehicles as a “once-in-a-century transformation”, according to Nikkei Asia.
Suzuki is on the verge of bringing its range of MHEV vehicles Down Under, including the Swift, Vitara, Ignis, and S-Cross. It is unclear if the brand will introduce the Japan-only series hybrid Swift, which has an electric motor mated to its transmission.
We expect more models will become series hybrids (or ‘full hybrids’) due to Suzuki’s expansion into the technology, and a need to reduce the CO2 footprint of its range in order to continue selling models in Europe.
Brutal Euro 7 regulations are looming in the next few years, and Suzuki was recently forced to pull its popular Jimny 4x4 from sale in Europe as it is not available even as an MHEV.
Meanwhile, Toyota is working toward the launch of its mainstream battery-electric car, the RAV4-sized bZ4X, which it warned earlier this year “would be expensive” when it arrives in Australia.