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With the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, some pundits were predicting that automakers like Suzuki wouldn’t last much longer in the U.S. market.
Since then, the Japanese company’s auto sales have been virtually in a freefall stateside – plummeting from 101,884 vehicles sold in 2007 (it’s best ever record in the U.S. by the way), to just 23,994 last year. But according to official sources within the company, it would be unwise to count Suzuki out just yet.
The Kizashi sedan, introduced in December 2009 is actually providing a welcome relief for dealers. American Suzuki Motor Co moved 6138 Kizashis off lots in 2010 and while that might seem like peanuts compared to the roughly 300,000 Toyota Camrys sold in the U.S. each year, Suzuki’s director of marketing and product planning, Steve Younan, doesn’t appear to be too concerned.
“We were in launch phase last year, so our sales were growing every month after we launched the car ,” he said. “As we launch some new advertising this year, we expect to continue that momentum.” In fact Younan says that Suzuki has recently been selling almost 1,000 Kizashis a month, a figure which is right in line for this year’s annual sales projections and almost double last year’s total.
And it’s a car that is apparently attracting a new type of buyer too, affluent males around 40, with a household income of $75,000 or more. That contrasts with Suzuki’s traditional U.S. audience which tended to be those on lower incomes, encouraged by heavy incentives to move metal off dealer lots.
But there’s still work to be done. A new marketing campaign, dubbed ‘Suzuki Kicks’ launched this past December, specifically targeted at the brand’s largest regional markets in the U.S., primarily in the South and North Eastern states is now gaining momentum.
In addition the company has made plans to handle increased capacity at the Sagara assembly plant in Japan where the Kizashi is built. Suzuki says that the factory is easily up to the task of handling double the current production levels, should total auto sales increase from around 12 million units today to 16 million annually.
With Volkswagen now owning a stake in Suzuki, there are also plans to possibly offer new powertrains in the Kizashi, designed to inject the car with even more sporting flair, including VW’s 2.0 turbo four.
Although Younan didn’t reveal any specifics, he did say all kinds of options being considered. But Suzuki is still airing on the side of caution, both as a strategy for the company as a whole and also it’s product lines, including the Kizashi.
When GM severed its ties to Suzuki in 2009, several powertrain plans for the Kizashi, including a hybrid were quickly scuttled, plus with the relationship with Volkswagen Group still in at the embryonic stage, the company has every reason to be treading carefully as it moves forward.
“Our whole product cadence got pushed back because of this relationship [with VW],” Younan said. “We had to slow down our process to see what we could take advantage of and what they could take advantage of. It’s taking longer than we thought.”
[Source: Ward's Auto World]