By on September 11, 2010

First of all, TTAC doesn’t exactly hate Suzuki. The SX4 and Kizashi are fun little cars that don’t generally get the cred they deserve. But Road & Track’s assertion that

Suzuki’s huge success following the introduction of the Kizashi this past year should only get better in 2011

is about as misleading as they come. Even by the most generous measure, 15,331 total brand sales over eight months does not equal “huge success.” In fact, R&T’s blatant Suzy-boosting has given Autosavant‘s Chris Haak pause to reconsider the way things work at the Buff Books. He writes

Call it naïveté, call it giving folks the benefit of the doubt, call it whatever you want to.  But as a long-time buff book reader (I subscribed to Motor Trend continuously between 1987 and July 2010, or about 23 years), I never paid much mind to critics that accused media outlets of providing favorable editorial coverage for certain manufacturers and vehicles in return for advertising dollars.  Is the Motor Trend Car of the Year award driven by the best car, or by the best advertiser?  I’d always assumed that these magazines would take the high road and provide a fair and accurate description of the industry and its vehicles so that their readers could make informed choices when considering how to part with their hard-earned money.

After breaking down the details of Suzuki’s anemic sales, Haak lays it down:

It would be easy for me to tell you which models sold more copies than did Suzuki’s entire lineup, except that there are a lot of examples.  Subaru – another small Japanese manufacturer – sold about as many Foresters and Outbacks in August alone than Suzuki did its entire lineup throughout all of 2010 so far (15,287 Foresters and Outbacks against 15,331 Suzukis).

The only reason to point out these ugly sales figures – in a new light-vehicle market that’s up 8 percent year to date, by the way – is not to pick on Suzuki, but to call attention to how ludicrous R&T’s statement calling Suzuki a “huge success.”  Surely, R&T’s editors have access to the same sales data that we do, and can see the same trends that I pointed out above.  Could it have anything to do with editorial partnerships?

Perish the thought! You mean, the fact that R&T has a long-term Kizashi tester, was given a Kizashi to modify and set a Bonneville speed record with, and writes favorably about the Kizashi in nearly every issue adds up to some kind of bias?

I’m not accusing Road & Track of being in the pocket of Suzuki, though given the disproportionately favorable coverage of the Kizashi and Suzuki, there is at the very least the appearance of a lack of objectivity in the magazine’s coverage of the struggling Japanese automaker.  There are plenty of whispers around the industry that Suzuki and Mitsubishi may both be on the way out of the US market, which would hardly be a surprise.

Now, there’s a long tradition among automotive journalists of preferring quirky, unpopular cars. Like fans of indie music, some car journalists must forever prove themselves cooler than everyone else by enthusing over cars that few people even know exists. But that only works if the journalist in question is upfront about their enthusiasm, and the fact that the wider market is not in step with their quirky tastes. Writing that Suzuki is poised to build on its “huge success” and then driving home in the long-term Kizashi is what makes buff book fans like Haak realize that TTAC’s media criticism isn’t just bellyaching. Road & Track should either come clean about its Kizashi crush (and make sure its enthusiasm for the car remains separate from industry coverage), or risk losing ever more readers to the perception that they serve OEMs rather than readers.

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27 Comments on “Road & Track Hearts Suzuki...”


  • avatar
    GrandCharles

    Amen brother! I can’t believe people pay money for this kind infomercial…Long live TTAC!

    • 0 avatar
      Trend-Shifter

      +1 for TTAC

      About Suzuki sales, I love the Swift over here in China.  They would have had a chance in the US market if they would had successfully brought that car into the market years ago.   Now it’s going to be a little late.
      So I hold little hope for their success in the US market unless they adopt a model of the “best lowest priced car” on the market.  And that is not going to happen with currencies where they are today.     

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Does anyone know how many Kizashi’s Suzuki intended on selling in the first place?

  • avatar
    ajla

    What is Suzuki’s sales per currently operating dealership?

  • avatar
    GrandCharles

    I don’t get the way they conduct their business; the SX4 awd in Québec is priced as much an Impreza. Who in their right mind is gonna take a chance? For what reason? They have no edge, no plus-value proposition. Take the Kisashi (seriously please take it…), they priced it 6000$ more than the entry model of legacy! It’s a shame i would have like an aerio or an SX4, but they just never seem to be a good purchase price wise…They use to have a good cheap basic solid car, the Forsa(swift) now they selled rebadged Daewoo…

  • avatar
    FordDude

    Isn’t Kizashi some kind of breakfast cereal? Suzuki for breakfast?

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Hey wait a minute…you stole my (bad) joke from over a year ago!
       
      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/a-swift-sidekick-by-a-samurai-new-suzuki-kizashi-gesundheit/#comment-1520681
       
      Just kidding, of course…I’m sure we have all looked at Suzuki’s model names and made the associations with Kashi and Viagra.

  • avatar

    To give R&T the benefit of the doubt…I’ve found that auto journalists in general don’t care much for numbers. They prefer to write from the gut. And this writer’s gut (informed by Suzuki’s PR) could well have told him that the Kizashi has been a big success. After all, the parking lot at work seems to be full of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Strippo

      It was careless wording. Replace the word “huge” with “critical” and it would be a fair comment. It may well be that the poor word choice was Freudian, but I just see this as yet another example of the velocity of digital publishing discouraging quality writing. Even assuming R&T is guilty as charged, deliberately overstating Suzuki’s success in this manner would be counterproductive.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Perhaps success is defined by how good the car is; these are supposedly car enthusiasts not accountants. But then, of course, there are questions about the level of enthusiasm compared to what their sponsors will allow.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    And long live Consumer Reports, the magazine enthusiasts love the whine about.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      @John Horner: And long live Consumer Reports…
       
      Oh the irony; not sure if it was intended or accidental.
       
      To mention CU/CR in the same breath as Suzuki, the automaker that waged an eight-year legal battle over libel purportedly committed by CU, for comments published yet another eight years prior…

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Indeed. Compare Suzuki’s botched response to CR putting the Sumarai on CR’s “Don’t Buy” list back in 1988 with Toyota/Lexus’ response to a similar warning on the GX460. Toyota did it right. Suzuki blew it. Of the many strange things Suzuki did in that matter, perhaps the strangest was that they waited until 1996 to sue. Said suit was eventually dropped.
      For anyone who still cares: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/new-cars/news/suzuki-and-consumers-union-agree-on-lawsuit-dismissal/overview/index.htm?loginMethod=auto
      All that aside, why is Suzuki still trying to sell passenger vehicles in the US? I cannot imagine that it would be a profitable enterprise at even several times their recent sales rates. Suzuki should focus its efforts on India and other markets where they have somethin’ going on.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Zombo

      I believe you meant love TO whine about John . Anyhow I felt maybe I should explain just where and when I lost faith in CR since I feel your post is somewhat directed towards me from the Mustang thread . I used to use CR extensively in the past when researching products and felt generally that they were on the up and up . That all changed around 6 years ago when my 19 year old Honda lawn tractor was due for replacement . Since I was in no rush to replace it I used every possible resource I could find to research the best replacement for my trusty Honda (albeit with a so-so cut) including the lawn tractor message boards and CR . The boards recommended Simplicity , Kubota , and any John Deere made in their Wisconsin plant starting with the LT series , but not the less sturdy JD L series built at the former Scotts plant in Tennessee which were sold at JD dealers and Home Cheapo at that time .
       
      CR however had the JD L series L120 as the top buy and a Craftsman DYT4000 and a (MTD) Troybuilt Bronco as best buys and all those choices had several problems and complaints over the next year on the message forums to say the least ! Hell I checked out that Troybuilt Bronco at Lowes and the thing was built so cheaply it was literally falling apart on the showroom floor ! So in the spring of 2005 it came down to the JD LT180 and a Simplicity Broadmoor – I called around on Good Friday and managed to snag a Simplicity Broadmoor for less than the price of a top of the line Simplicity Regent . Six mowing seasons later with a great cut and zero problems , CR doesn’t even have Simplicity and Kubota in it’s tests anymore . Don’t know if JD and Craftsman is paying off CR , but when two of the best brands are missing from tests something sure as hell stinks ! Or maybe Simplicity and Kubota they just got tired of being dissed in the CR tests and made their machines unavailable – I sure as hell wouldn’t blame them !

      I still use CR (in the library) as a research source for appliances and such , but I’ve seen brand bias there too and they are just one resource of many as I want all opinions before making a choice  . And quite frankly the opinions on the internet of people who have actually bought the product are the best product reviews of all . Hope that explains where my disdain of CR came from .
       
       
       
       
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      I didn’t mean to direct my comment to anyone in particular, and I agree that CR’s word is not to be taken as the final answer on anything. I consider them just one of many potential sources of information. Also, I agree that careful reading of a broad section of real world consumer feedback on a product can be some of the best information of all. In fact, tomorrow my wife and I will be staying at a hotel chosen in part based on reading lots of reviews of hotels in that area on Expedia and Yelp.
      Truth be told, I’m actually more disgusted with the “buff books” than I am enamored of Consumer Reports :). Likewise when choosing tires I look at CR’s test data AND the extensive consumer commentary posted at TireRack.com.

  • avatar

    Thanks for posting this!  For the record, I’m not exactly a “fan” of the buff books – but I like reading about the cars that I probably won’t ever get a chance to drive.  The rumors section of Motor Trend, with its less than 50% accuracy and sharing three month old news, plus the incessant series of errors throughout that magazine led me to finally let my subscription lapse last July.  But to replace it, I got Automobile for three years at $6 per year.  At that price, they might as well thicken the mag with a little more advertising and give the sucker away for free.

  • avatar
    daviel

    long ago I read C&D and R&T faithfully every month – back when Jean Shepherd had a column.  Today they aren’t the same – I am not surprised.  I like TTAC.  But say, isn’t Suz doing OK in India?

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Semenak

      I did too through the 1980’s. I now only receive C&D because, I got a free one year subscription when ordering more RAM for my fiancees computer. The columnists are the best part, IMO. BTW, are you sure it wasn’t Jean Lindamood you recall ?

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Lots of auto mags are like this unfortunately.  Kind of like how successful the Genesis is.  A great car, but not very successful in Coupe or Sedan.

  • avatar
    roar

    So here is what I know.  Suzuki is the 10th largest automaker in the world.  The network of Suzuki is being reconfigured as we speak so they get the right retailers in the right locations.  They have new leadership in the U.S. from Japan is executing a plan to get Suzuki back on it’s feet in the U.S.  The company has never had a year where it lost money.  They have new product planned for the U.S. market.  The Kizahi plan was to sell around a 1000 units a month in the U.S.  The biggest issue today is getting product, the sales rate of Suzuki products is so good in other parts of the world they have a hard time supply the U.S. with products.
     
    roar

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I was in high school back in 74 when it became painfully obvious that Motor Trend was in GM’s pocket after reading an article comparing pony cars. They couldn’t have slanted it towards the z-28 any more, unless they didn’t have any other cars competing against it at all. One of the most pitiful articles I’ve ever read.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    So, if they have a flat to down year in cars do they just skip importing any new models and decide that new models are just a waste of time?  I.e. Their entire US motorcycle division? Why import 2010 models if 2009 models are exactly the same and still littering their dealers’ floors?  And they must believe that no one in the US would want 2011 model updates either……

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    Road$Track, and Car&Driver have been bird cage liner for years now.

  • avatar

    Clearly, I’m he ONLY ONE that sees this car is a Jetta. Honestly? No one else did a side-by-side comparison and found this to be another one of Suzuki’s re-badge specials? Jeez guys…what do you do all day, work?! hehe

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Kizashi should just be rebadged as the Jetta.
       
      That would allow VW to kill off the crummy decontented 2011 North American Jetta, and let the Suzuki brand exit the North American market.
      _____
      I’m sure VW could find a place for the SX4 too.

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