There’s no question that I’m a fan of small, body-on-frame SUVs. For hauling various combinations of human and cargo across various terrains, smooth or otherwise, there is no substitute. In many parts of the world, the average roadway is somehow worse than even the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so a sturdy frame is paramount.
I’ve never been to Iran, but I’d imagine it’s one of those places where a rugged vehicle is required. Thus, it’s no surprise that the last-generation Suzuki Grand Vitara is still built there.
Part-owned by the Iranian government, Iran Khodro has been building cars from Renault, Peugeot, and Suzuki for years. The Peugeot 405, originally introduced in 1987, is still produced by the company, which makes the 2005-vintage Suzuki positively fresh in comparison.
It seems that very few changes have been made by the Iranians to the Suzuki we once knew. The 2.4-liter four cylinder is rated at 169 horsepower, roughly the same as when it was offered in the U.S.
It’s interesting that while Suzuki has redesigned the Grand Vitara for other markets, the older generation truck remains in production in Iran. Perhaps, as we have seen with Nissan’s Tsuru in Mexico, familiarity and ease of servicing are quite important in developing markets, so the creature comforts offered by new designs are inconsequential.
Would such a scheme work for low-cost vehicles here in the U.S.? Likely not. With ever-advancing safety and emissions regulations, the automakers would have little desire to continue production of a low-profit vehicle that would need significant work to come into compliance. Old-model runout vehicles built for fleets, such as the Chevrolet Captiva and Nissan Rogue Select, are the exception.
I’d love to see Suzuki back in the States. They have been making interesting, well-built cars (I really want a new Swift!) for years, but poor U.S. management doomed the company here.
[Image: Iran Khodro]