Late last night, we were contacted by an employee of American Suzuki Motors Corp, who reached out to TTAC to vent his frustrations regarding the downfall of ASMC’s auto business. The picture painted by this employee is one of a highly dysfunctional operation, focused only on tomorrow and never beyond that, a revolving door of Japanese management and deep antipathy for American workers.
Though we’ve confirmed the identity of this Suzuki employee, they wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their remarks.
“I have been here 5 years. In this time, we have gone though several regime changes. Most of the Japanese management lasted here about a year or two at most, then sent back to Japan for reassignment to other countries,.
“Here at Suzuki, us American workers are not to speak directly to them. We must go through our department managers. The Japanese do not make eye contact with anyone, even in passing in the office. Many of us American workers took this as a huge insult. I know I do.”
The latest and current group of Japanese managers were brought in back in May 2011. There sole purpose has been cutting costs and searching only to become profitable, by any means necessary. This lead to a huge lack of any marketing, advertising, or just general word of Suzuki products.American managers, who have been lucky enough to keep their positions, they mostly just agree with whatever the Japanese say, for fear of losing their positions. Anyone who seems to have an opinion other than what the Japanese have is either quickly shunned or later terminated during these layoff periods. They say nothing and just go along with whatever is the plan of the day…they do not have any say in product planning.How it works is they place dealer orders early in the model year and hope that Japan agrees with these numbers. However, they have always been at the mercy of what SMC is willing to produce and ship to the United States.Most of their dealer network is starved for product and parts at this time, and has been for a while.
By April 2009, we had laid off approximately 15% of our workforce. Layoffs occured in all divisions at that time. By summer of 2010, ASMC had let go of most of their PR/Media Department, and hired Questus as a consultant. However, as you know, there have only been very limited advertising and marketing for most Suzuki products. They did produce a Kizashi Kicks campaign, but with minimal success. The public just didn’t buy a Kizashi was a competitor to higher end luxuy vehicle like Audi and Mercedes that they featured in these commercials and on the website. They did place a Super Bowl ad, but only in about 15 markets, mostly on in the Northeast. The Cash for Clunkers program did help sales at the time, but it was not deemed as a success here by the Japanese. There have been constant rounds of random downsizing since the first layoffs of 2009. Most occur every 6-12 months. Yesterday was the biggest round since April of 2009, with almost 70 people being terminated including the all automotive field representatives.
The Japanese consider us to be an automotive company first, everything else is secondary. However, most people can only remember the Samauri. They had no idea that we were even still in business as an auto manufacturer! We only had a 0.02% market share here in America. The main reason was that no one knew us. I doubt today if anyone cares about the chapter 11 filing. Most are probably gonna say to themselves, “Suzuki made cars??”
The lack of management and communication here lead many employees to become hopeless about auto. The ones who worked hard and tried to make a difference were treated poorly by the Japanese as well as their immediate managers and either were later terminated or left on their own accord.