Road & Track Hearts Suzuki

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
road track hearts suzuki

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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3 of 27 comments
  • Zbnutcase Zbnutcase on Sep 12, 2010

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

  • Joevwgti Joevwgti on Sep 16, 2010

    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

    • Ajla Ajla on Sep 16, 2010

      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.

  • Redapple2 I m OK with State Inspections, OF 7 , 8 OR HOWEVER OLD CARS. I get a new car every 3-5 years. Well, that aint right. When I lived in NY, it would really fry my butt to be compelled to have my new car inspected. Add in 9% sales tax ( after i ve already paid ~50% on the money when I made it - so- i had to make $2 to have $1 in my pocket- So, net it back upward? > it s a 18% tax.) Add in massive property tax, state income tax. Brutal winters. I voted with my feet. Off topic a little. Sorry.
  • Adamscotthi Thanks a lot for article!
  • MaintenanceCosts This class of car competes hard with Chargers/Challengers and modded diesel pickups for the douchey-driving crown.
  • 28-Cars-Later Corey - I think I am going to issue a fatwa demanding a cool kids car meetup in July somewhere in the Ohio region.
  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.