When the question of whether a Death Watch should be started for Suzuki was first posed here at TTAC in April, there was a lot going on behind the scenes at the stylized “S” brand but not many facts filtering out to the public.
As of today, TTAC’s Death Watch starts for Suzuki’s North American operations. And if you haven’t been following the drama, here’s some background for you…
Once an established niche brand making big deals with GM and high on success, American Suzuki has continually lost dealers since 2005, either due to dealers deciding to leave the brand or Suzuki offering $50,000 buyout packages for proprietors to wind down their operations. More than half of the remaining 246 dealers sell less than five new vehicles a month, which is not surprising considering Suzuki only has four models to choose from in the United States. In Canada, the Equator is no longer offered, so dealers north of the border must rely on the Grand Vitara, SX4, and Kizashi.
The changes aren’t just in the stores. In Brea, California, home of American Suzuki’s HQ, cost-cutting seems to have become the focus instead of a support exercise. Head of marketing, Steve Younan, left the company in January and no replacement has been hired to fill the role. Director of public relations, Jeff Holland, also quietly left Suzuki without a replacement announced. The company ended its agreement with J.D. Power and Associates for consumer satisfaction data with no replacement. Suzuki’s social media presence on Facebook has showed a couple signs of life recently, but the corporate Twitter account, @SuzukiAuto, has been disabled. As for future product, the biggest announcements have been refreshes to the SX4 and Grand Vitara, which are both getting on in years.
American Suzuki President Seiichi Maruyama and chairman Takashi Iwatsuki seem to be gutting the company, like some kind of automotive themed slasher flick.
On the other hand, global Suzuki operations have never been better. Maruti Suzuki in India enjoys significant success while the Suzuki Swift, not available in North America, receives repeated acclaim and accolades from the automotive press and car buying public.
So, is American Suzuki just winding down operations and finalizing their legal obligations before pulling the plug? Or is something larger at play in Brea? Only time will tell. But, it isn’t looking good, folks.