By on July 18, 2012

Yesterday, a whirlwind of spy shots uncovered what looks to be the SX4 replacement Suzuki will start shipping to lots later this year. So far, observations of the new pint-sized every man rally car look promising, including possible turbo power and a handsome, if unremarkable, interior. But, will it be enough to satiate the appetite of Anglo American tastes? Or does American Suzuki need to focus more on the brand image train?

Up until this point, we were of the belief the SX4 would receive a facelift versus a full model replacement for the 2013 model year. However, as the auto photogs have revealed, there seem to be some major dimensional changes between the camo car and the current model. Underneath the auto burka are some Kizashi like styling features, such as a revised grille and new headlamps, and what might possibly be an intercooler behind the lower grille.

But, if NPR’s Sonari Glinton’s street corner survey is any indication of the market, a new SX4 isn’t going to matter. After asking a few people in Ann Arbor, MI to name all the Japanese brands available in the US, the results were not surprising for the majority of us:

KATHY KENNEDY: OK. Toyota, Honda – that’s all that comes to mind.

JAMES HAMILTON: Oh, pretty much. Yeah. Toyota, Hyundai, Miata, Mazda, Lexus.

EILEEN KNEIPER: Toyota, Nissan, Honda. I think that’s it.

In an industry where reputation and image are everything, American Suzuki is hiding from the camera. Before any new product gives Suzuki the increase in sales it needs in order to sustain business in the United States and Canada, a major overhaul of their marketing is needed (like hiring someone to actually do marketing), focusing on the brand instead of this month’s incentives, so people know that Suzuki still exists.

Hear the lack of outcry? That’s the deafening silence of a brand’s once-loyal customers not caring enough to speak up.

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44 Comments on “Suzuki Death Watch 2: Brand Recognition And Spy Shots From Spain...”


  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Nah, the Kizachi has been generally well received by the auto media, yet they can’t sell them to the same people that complain that the Accords and Camry’s are just too large and clumsy for their tastes.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      It has been well received but since there are not many dealers (and that number seems to be decreasing) or any substantial advertising of the car then auto media reviews do not matter much. We come to TTAC, Edmunds and other sites and know the options available in any given class of car. Most people do not know that much, as was demonstrated (Subaru wasn`t listed either).

      • 0 avatar

        @mike978, not much substantial advertising, unless you were only looking at the Road & Track/Suzuki relationship.

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/road-track-hearts-suzuki/

      • 0 avatar
        MusicMachine

        Agreed. For example: If the Kizachi could enjoy the saturation level of GM dealerships that it’s older Geo/Chevy Metro, Geo/Chevy Tracker siblings did, it’d be rolling out the doors. GM badging and GM styling may have played into it too, but I think the statement is still true.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Suzuki’s problems have always been mostly about marketing. They certainly don’t have a product problem – the Kizashi has gotten pretty much universally positive reviews from everyone that’s driven it (way better press than the new Passat or Malibu, for example), and the consensus is that the SX4 has always been pretty much the best-kept secret in fun to drive small cars.

    The trouble is though, what sort of marketing does their budget really allow? Their sales volumes probably don’t justify a massive media blitz, but, then, you have to spend money to make money, so its sort of a catch 22.

    The few TV commercials I have seen have also been pretty terrible at telling you what values the brand represents, and why you should buy one over a Subaru or Mazda; so maybe instead of boosting their ad budget, they should start by firing the ad people they have right now and just use their existing money more effectively.

    Another issue is their tiny dealer network, but again, until the company starts to show a real interest in supporting its brand in the US, what incentive is there for dealers to take on new franchises? The GM, Chrysler, and Saab bankruptcies were probably a missed opportunity to expand Suzuki’s dealer footprint – lots of empty showrooms, many with owners looking for new product, how many of them were courted and signed up?

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      They also don’t have any word of mouth, I recall in the early days of Subaru up north, they didn’t do much advertising but the positive word of mouth and recommendation from owners to friends and families got a lot of them sold, I just don’t see it for Suzuki.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      Your name is the best description of new units on Suzuki dealer lots I have read in a long time.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    KATHY KENNEDY: OK. Toyota, Honda – that’s all that comes to mind.

    JAMES HAMILTON: Oh, pretty much. Yeah. Toyota, Hyundai, Miata, Mazda, Lexus.

    EILEEN KNEIPER: Toyota, Nissan, Honda. I think that’s it.

    Pretty scary.

    At least the ladies got the Brands correct, if not getting all of them.

    Mr. Hamilton needs some homework. Miata + Hyundai? Really.

    But, then again it’s Michigan. Can’t really expect much more.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      It’s not just Michigan. This is the general non-automotive-obsessed public. They could care less where a Hi-un-day comes from.

      And Miata, that’s just down right disrespectful.

    • 0 avatar

      deja1, Hyundai has a large R&D facility about a half hour west of Detroit in Pittsfield Twp. That facility is dwarfed by Toyota’s Ann Arbor R&D center. The Mazda 6 was built in Flat Rock alongside the Mustang for a decade.

      Since they build them, plenty of Michiganders can identify Japanese and Korean car brands (and suppliers too).

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Replace “Kizashi” with “SX5″. Name is keeping people away.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Lots of people still think Suzuki only makes motorcycles, a problem Honda overcame in just a few years.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Love my SX-4 hatchback 6-speed AWD. 35+ mpg, and nothing has gone wrong. Long live Suzuki.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I’m a car guy and I only recently found out that this car existed. Would definitely replace my xB1 with one. This model would benefit from a cheap “performance” variant to gain some visibility. Such as some nice looking wheels, painted plastics, drop, and roof rack delete. Instead, Suzuki only offers about 3 colors.

      I love the greenhouse on the current car. This new thing looks more like a Vibe, and I’m not sure about the direction it’s headed based on the general shape.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I almost drove the extra 100 miles to the nearest Suzuki dealership to shop for an Sx4 crossover with a manual before I went with the Kia Soul instead. I still in my heart-of-hearts have moments of regret about that.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Marketing is a problem for Suzuki definitely, but so is lack of dealership representation. Suzuki dealers seem to only be located within major metropolitan areas which on the East and West Coast may not seem that odd, but out here in the West and Mid-West, a person is not going to drive that far out of their way for a car they’ve hardly heard of and isn’t that much of a bargain.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    I know that many people take Viagara, and Kobayashi can sure eat a lot of hot dogs, but they are horrible names for cars. Those cars remind people that they need help in bed, or make them think of binge eating. Look at big brother Honda for inspiration. Civic=good connotations, ditto with Accord, Passport, and Element.

    • 0 avatar
      mr_muttonchops

      “Passport” is kind of a bad name, too. What, do I need a passport to have a Honda, or enter the dealership? I better get my photo taken for my Honda Passport.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Suzuki isnt giving people what they want. People want style, the SX4 is HIDEOUS. People want power + acceleration, the Kizashi is anemic + heavy (despite its awesome dynamics). People want the Swift, they won’t import it! What is the point of a car company that doesn’t build what markets want?

    Their motorcycle end is languishing too… they have cut almost half of their street bike lineup from sales.

    I’ve said it before but they need to inject some of the spirit from their bikes into the cars. Bring over the Swift and give it a little screamer of an engine. Slap a turbo on the Kizashi. Restyle the SX4 so it doesn’t look like a Little Tykes CUV. Market the cars. Do SOMETHING!!!

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      Yes. A hot version of the Swift would be great competition to Mini/Fiat. The SX4 sedan also needs a total restyle and a hot version to increase visibility in the marketplace. The Kizashi needs to get big. This whole “right size” strategy didn’t work for the last gen Mazda 6, and it wont work for Suzuki either. Make it Accord sized and people get interested.

      About the Grand Vitara… How come Toyota can get 26 mpg out of its 250hp+ V6 4wd Rav4, but Suzuki can only achieve 26 mpg with the low power 4 cylinder?

  • avatar
    dcars

    How about they just go and take Mitsubishi, Mazda and Subaru with them.

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      Yes, but leave Miata. We like that brand.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      And leave bland bootie Toyota, Honda and Nissan? Lemme hit that blunt, that must be some good kush

      And Subaru is doing pretty well, prob the only manufacturer who didn’t see sales drops during the recession.

      Suzuki’s got the know how, and even the product in the case of the Swift. They just need to put it all together in a way that makes sense. I disagree though that they need to make the Kizashi a land yacht. It needs to be maybe half a size bigger.

    • 0 avatar
      CanCarnut

      My EVO X mrt can stay too. Come to think of it… A Japanese boutique showroom of orphan awesome cars should be commissioned immediately . Evo/sti/miata/swiftGTi

      Mitzunbaru inc.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    What’s in a name? Apparently, Suzuki doesn’t think much, with the strange names they have a habit of giving some of their vehicles. Does anyone remember the SX4′s predecessor, the Aerio? The last decently named Suzuki was the Swift. They should have kept that one.

    Personally, I think Suzuki should rename their current line-up using the names Weirdo, Goofball, and Homer. In the words of former Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, “If you can’t be good, be colorful”.

  • avatar
    jimbo1126

    The big elephant in the room is that Suzuki killed itself in the U.S. with the hideous line of rebadged Daewoos from 5-10 years ago that were marketed heavily to the bad credit market. Sorry but you know it’s true.

    • 0 avatar
      MusicMachine

      That was GM’s fault though. As I recall, GM, having the larger share in Suzuki and just having purchased Daewoo at the time, was trying to do what GM does…(whatever that is).

      And Suzuki was doing loads better when it could sell it’s products w/ GM badges. Remember Geo/Chevy Metro and Geo/Chevy Tracker(aka Suzuki Swift and Suzuki Vitara).

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Terrible cars, perhaps, but the Daewoo rebadge jobs weren’t hideous looking. The Reno, Forenza, and Verona were all handsome, if bland, designs that were penned in Italy by Pininfarina and Italdesign Giugiaro. I found them better styled than the in-house Suzuki designs with which they shared showroom space.

      • 0 avatar
        TruthyToothy

        Good insights regarding the Korean “rebadges”, but I believe Suzuki was involved in the styling. Also, Suzuki realized early in the selling of the that there was a quality problem. Suzuki was however unable to fix the quality problem of the Koreans from within. Then they had to exit and clear those cars out. All this takes time, from discovery of the quality problem to the eventual extinguishing of it.

        Now we blame Suzuki for not having enough product. But the available product is now all of high general quality. I like.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby

    The way I see it, Suzuki’s issue is very similiar to Hyundai’s was in the 80′s, except that what Suzuki brings to the table is a shrinking dealer body and a North American market that is even harder to do business in. No word of mouth like a few have said already, and to be honest, when you see a Suzuki, it’s a Forenza and it trailer-trashed beyond belief and is driven by the same.

  • avatar
    darex

    Kizashi needed a hatch variant and a real factory NAV system from the start. I was mightily impressed with it when I discovered it at the car show. The dealbreaker for me was the lack of stick shift in the top trim level, and being forced to have the all-wheel drive when I wouldn’t want it, and the lack of a hatch. In summary: bad packaging/marketing kept me out of the Kizashi, which I really wanted to like.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Hyundai’s comeback was helped by ‘lowest common demo’ people assuming they are Japanese. Or, thinking Korea is a part of Japan.

  • avatar

    I thought only Maid Service companies brought these, other people do to?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    When people think of Suzuki they think motorcycles, not cars. Despite a long history of making cars, they are just not known for 4 wheeled machines in the US.

    It’s as if Ford tried to make motorcycles.

    That being said, they make a decent small car, albeit one that doesn’t get mileage as good as other cars in it’s class, and the Kisashi is an excellent car all around.

    I came close to buying an SX4 in 2008 but my job changed and I didn’t need a commuter car built for the snow any longer.

    The lack of dealer support is troubling but cars are better than ever today and with the internet anything can be acquired.

    I would take a chance on one of their cars if the price was right.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    I have driven the Suzuki Swift 1.5, which is popular in Asia and parts of Europe. It is a fun car to drive around town, with good handling, lots of headroom and good visibility. The Swift is a great youth car or ladymobile. Owners say it is very reliable, and used Swifts command high prices. Suzuki has a winner with this one.

  • avatar
    kizashi1

    being an owner of a kizashi which i love its really a great car despite what some here may speculate its better or just as good as some of the name brand cars out there to me its just a marketing thing for suzuki i get the feeling that if it was a toyota kizashi or honda kizashi the name wouldnt matter its a mind game people,,,,,anyway my question is if suzuki leaves america should i worry about warranty service or having to wait months for parts,,,,this is my only issue with my suzuki kizashi since i bought it for the long term ,,,,,,,

    • 0 avatar

      Is “Kizashi” Japanese for “missing periods”?

      Now that I know a local (relatively speaking) dealer sells Suzukis, it’s on the list of travel cars worth checking out for next year. I’m seeing quite a few Kizashis and SX4s around this area now.


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