Suzuki Death Watch 1: The Prologue

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson

When the question of whether a Death Watch should be started for Suzuki was first posed here at TTAC in April, there was a lot going on behind the scenes at the stylized “S” brand but not many facts filtering out to the public.

As of today, TTAC’s Death Watch starts for Suzuki’s North American operations. And if you haven’t been following the drama, here’s some background for you…

Once an established niche brand making big deals with GM and high on success, American Suzuki has continually lost dealers since 2005, either due to dealers deciding to leave the brand or Suzuki offering $50,000 buyout packages for proprietors to wind down their operations. More than half of the remaining 246 dealers sell less than five new vehicles a month, which is not surprising considering Suzuki only has four models to choose from in the United States. In Canada, the Equator is no longer offered, so dealers north of the border must rely on the Grand Vitara, SX4, and Kizashi.

The changes aren’t just in the stores. In Brea, California, home of American Suzuki’s HQ, cost-cutting seems to have become the focus instead of a support exercise. Head of marketing, Steve Younan, left the company in January and no replacement has been hired to fill the role. Director of public relations, Jeff Holland, also quietly left Suzuki without a replacement announced. The company ended its agreement with J.D. Power and Associates for consumer satisfaction data with no replacement. Suzuki’s social media presence on Facebook has showed a couple signs of life recently, but the corporate Twitter account, @SuzukiAuto, has been disabled. As for future product, the biggest announcements have been refreshes to the SX4 and Grand Vitara, which are both getting on in years.

American Suzuki President Seiichi Maruyama and chairman Takashi Iwatsuki seem to be gutting the company, like some kind of automotive themed slasher flick.

On the other hand, global Suzuki operations have never been better. Maruti Suzuki in India enjoys significant success while the Suzuki Swift, not available in North America, receives repeated acclaim and accolades from the automotive press and car buying public.

So, is American Suzuki just winding down operations and finalizing their legal obligations before pulling the plug? Or is something larger at play in Brea? Only time will tell. But, it isn’t looking good, folks.

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson

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  • PV_Pathfinder PV_Pathfinder on Jul 19, 2012

    I didn't even know you could buy Suzukis in KC anymore. When I looked them up online, there's a dealer I've never heard of and the other one has spent more time in front of a judge than Matlock. Not good.

  • Subuclayton Subuclayton on Jun 02, 2020

    Just stumbled on this thread. The year is now 2020. Since 2005 have had a Suzuki Aerio SX in the driveway. That's 105 in dog years. It has never failed to start in all that time. Only thing I have replaced is vapor Cannister, which I ruined. It had it's problems (staticky radio, low riding 15" tires that hit everything left on the road and went bald after 20K miles) But it is peppy, turns on a dime, and, aside from a plastic body, is built like a tank.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.