Done Deal: Suzuki And Volkswagen Hitched

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Who would have thought that they are moving that fast: VW will buy a 20 percent stake in Japan’s Suzuki for $2.5 billion. It’s announced and it is official, including a photo-op with a beaming Winterkorn next to a grinning Osamu Suzuki. Rumors of that, well, tie-up had been around for a while and had recently intensified, but the speed is nonetheless surprising. Except for those who know Piech. At the September IAA auto show, Piech had said that 12 brands are better than 10. Everybody who knew Piech knew that he was referring to MAN/Scania trucks on one end of the spectrum, and Suzuki small cars and even motor bikes at the other.

Piech’s protégé and VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, was hopeful the Suzuki alliance would help catapult the Wolfsburg-based carmaker past industry leader Toyota Motor Corp ahead of plan.”If that succeeds faster (than 2018), we’re happy,” a grinning Winterkorn told reporters the Tokyo press conference, Reuters reports

Osamu Suzuki has a different view: “I don’t want you to misunderstand: Suzuki is not becoming a 12th brand for Volkswagen, I don’t want other folks telling me how to do things.” Time will tell. And there is always the “biological solution” as the saying goes in Wolfsburg: Suzuki-San is 80. Nobody in Germany really believes that Volkswagen is content with owning only a minority share. They want to be able to count Suzuki’s sales and n umbers as theirs. The Nikkei [sub] already muses that the “ambitious move may create a global alliance rivaling Toyota Motor Corp. with a dominating presence particularly in the emerging markets of China and India.”

Whatever it may become, at the moment it’s not a takeover, it’s an alliance: Suzuki will invest up to half of the proceeds in a cross-shareholding and pay $1.13b for a rather symbolic (and tax efficient) 2.5 percent stake in VW.

As we’ve said before, the Suzuki-deal works for both. Suzuki has what Volkswagen needs, and Suzuki needs what Volkswagen has.

Suzuki pretty much owns the Indian market at a slightly deteriorating market share. Suzuki.Maruti’s share of that market has fallen over the last year from 45 percent to about 40 percent (with passenger car share down from 55 percent to 48 percent). VW is just starting out in India, but can complement Suzuki at the slightly larger end,

Volkswagen has a dominant role in other growth markets such as China and Brazil. Suzuki has an output of 2.36 million units a year, added to VW’s sales, Toyota would be toast, and Winterkorn would be happy. He’s not the only one who likes the deal.

Suzuki’s shares were up 3.5 percent in Tokyo market, Volkswagen rose as much as 2.9 percent in Germany, the leading gainer among German blue chips.

But it’s not all roses. The WSJ is already pointing out the possibility of a great Teutonic-Nipponese family feud: “They are fiercely independent family-led companies, which may make any benefits more difficult to deliver.”

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Tedward Tedward on Dec 10, 2009

    I think this is an interesting deal from a North American point of view (although I agree that this was probably about Asia). Suzuki does not have an established product line here, so switching the Kizashi to the mid sized sedan architecture and introducing VW parts to the sx4 can be done without being too obvious about it or hurting credibility. More NA volume for VW and far better drivetrain tech for Suzuki. I would expect Suzuki to stay downmarket of VW, allowing the germans to sell $15k cars without having to resort to decontenting. I, for one, would love a VW mechanical package paired with a cheaper, more reliable and simpler interior. I'd go so far as to declare "no-downside" from a NA consumer's point of view, at least so long as Suzuki dosen't just start selling last gen VW's.

  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Dec 10, 2009

    I, for one, would not like any VW technology in any Suzuki built for the U.S. market. VW's look great on paper and are wonderful to drive when they're brand new. I want to like them. I really do. But a few thousand miles down the road and they become nightmares - largely due to design defects. Now, I'm sure a dozen people will post about their ownership of trouble-free VWs. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. The numbers don't lie. One's chances of having major problems with a VW are very high compared with other brands.

  • Master Baiter Not sure why I can buy an iPhone made in China but not a car. 🤔Automotive lobby, I guess...
  • Tassos Jong-iL Mr. Healey, honesty is key and there have been several accusations about your biases towards different brands. We hope you can prove these badactors wrong and show us the proper way.
  • Redapple2 37% USA Canada content. This should pass you off ! THIRTY SEVEN.
  • Theflyersfan I guess I should have kept my first ever car which was also a 1987 Nissan. Probably could have sold it for $50,000 by now if I was living in this fantasy world where used up 37 year old Nissans sell for the same price as a new Versa. I wish a link was here so all of us can check out this treasure among junk 200SX. The only way this car is even remotely worth that kind of money is if there are illicit substances hidden somewhere in the frame that, as part of the sale, you have to drive across the border and "make a delivery." Otherwise, get that thing off of my lawn.
  • Sobro Needs moar Roots.