Kizashi apparently means “omen”, sign or “warning” – it also means “something great is coming”, but the only thing on Suzuki’s American horizons is a bleak future.
Suzuki sales have been dismal. The brand was down two percent last month, despite surging car sales. Suzuki has also consistently lost dealers since 2005, shedding 12 percent of its sales network in 2011 alone. Five years ago, the company moved over 100,000 units in the United States – in 2011, it was barely one quarter of their 2005 figure.
One dealer told Automotive News that 60 percent of dealers sell 5 or fewer new cars per month. With an aging lineup and a vague new product rollout schedule, Suzuki’s management appears to be focused on cutting costs rather than digging their heels in for the long-term. Reporting customer satisfaction data to J.D. Power has been canned by management, and the brand’s Twitter and Facebook pages are dormant. Advertising campaigns at both the regional and national level have been similarly lacking.
The drastic drop in sales since 2005 could also be correlated to the rise of Hyundai and Kia, whose products have made enormous strides in the last 5 years. It may have been somewhat rational to buy a Suzuki SX4 or Grand Vitara over a comparable Korean car, but nowadays, one would have to have a powerful reality distortion field to make that choice.
Suzuki’s future in America is even more tragic given that the brand’s best car, the Swift, isn’t even sold here. The Swift has been praised by numerous outlets, including EVO and Top Gear, two British snob rags of the highest order. At the Geneva Auto Show, the brand displayed a 75 mpg concept that used an 800cc engine and weighed 1600 lbs. If that’s not engineering ingenuity, not much else is. The Kizashi is a competent entrant into the mid-size category, but about to be left behind by the competition. The SX4 and Grand Vitara are hopelessly outdated, and the brand badly needs an injection of new product. About the only saving grace Suzuki has right now is India, but as Ed pointed out in his bit about Suzuki’s fortunes in the sub-continent, the brand could re-position itself to take Subaru’s low-cost, rugged AWD niche, now that Subaru is becoming what Audi once was. The SX4 AWD is the cheapest new car with AWD, and there’s even a small but high-quality aftermarket for it. Even if Suzuki goes under in America, they will always have their motorcycles – and I’ll have a source of cheap vehicles for my future rally campaign (with the low price of an orphan vehicle, buying spares and performance upgrades might be feasible).