The tiddler of Japanese carmakers has plans for a big year in 2009 in Australia.
Suzuki, which is a fraction of the size of Toyota and Nissan and made its name and money with micro cars in Japan, is almost ready to deliver a new baby car and a mid-sized star in local showrooms.
No one at Suzuki Australia will confirm the exact plan for the micro-car, though it is likely to be a Splash baby car made in Hungary, or the production version of the Kizashi concept that will go up against a range of mid-sized V6 rivals.
But a group of Australian dealers travelled to Europe last week to see the Splash, Swift and SX4 being built in Hungary — at a rate of 300,000 cars a year — before going to the Rally of Turkey to see the company's World Rally Championship car in action.
“We will launch a sub-Swift car in the second quarter and Kizashi at the end of 2009, both in new segments for Suzuki,” Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers says.
“Two new cars in 2009 will increase our volume naturally as we currently compete in only 45 per cent of the Australian market.”
Devers says the Australian plan will reflect Suzuki's global moves, which have already seen the Euro-style Splash make big gains in Europe.
“Suzuki's new philosophy is to become a global player and produce vehicles in strategic locations in factories in Japan, Hungary, India — where Suzuki has 50 per cent market share and has won several JD Power and Associates quality awards — and Thailand, which comes on stream in 2010,” he says.
“Our stated goal is to achieve 40000 units by 2010, again with incremental models sourced from the most appropriate global factory. This will allow us to continue the Suzuki core philosophy of true value for money.”
Devers will not confirm Splash from Hungary and hints India or Thailand could be a better long-term fit for Australia, despite the size and success of the Eastern European factory.
Planning for the Kizashi is further into the future, though the final production version of the car — previewed with concepts at several shows — is expected to be seen at the Paris Motor Show in October.
Devers is still not committed to a rally program in Australia, though an SX4 suitable for local regulations should be ready towards the end of the year.