Suzuki Death Watch 3: Oh, Yeah, We Did Replace Those People…

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
suzuki death watch 3 oh yeah we did replace those people

When the brightest news you share about your brand is a couple of facelifts and the inclusion of a factory-installed Garmin GPS unit in the next model year, things aren’t going all that well at your company. But, when we inquired with American Suzuki (and Suzuki Canada) about the future of the brand, we did get some interesting information that didn’t seem important enough in Brea, California to publish a press release.

Melissa Fujimoto has a tough job at the smallest non-luxury automotive brand in the US: damage control. After being with American Suzuki on the promotions end of the business, she has the pleasure of filling former PR extraordinaire Jeff Holland’s shoes who left the company earlier in the year.

Where things get really interesting is on the marketing side. Former head of marketing, Steve Younan, who silently slipped out the door of the American Suzuki headquarters in January, has been permanently replaced by newly minted Marketing Manager David Ossenmacher, who’s been with American Suzuki since 2010. Mr. Ossenmacher has an interesting professional past, including nine years with Nissan North America and another three with Hyundai North America during the doldrum product years of the early 2000s (Remember the Hyundai XG? No, we don’t either.) After parting ways with the Korean marque in 2003, David left the automotive industry altogether…to sell houses.

When Melissa Fujimoto replied to my inquiry about Suzuki’s future, the first thing mentioned was Suzuki having “one of the most aggressive financing offers in the industry and our popular 0% for 72 months has been extended into July,” promptly followed by a reconfirmation of facelifts and other features which aren’t new news.

But, maybe this is the line American Suzuki will be towing for the next 12-24 months, as Mr. Ossenmacher tries to sell the outdated imports like cheap properties on the most undesirable corner of Detroit.

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  • Domestic Hearse Domestic Hearse on Jul 24, 2012

    Suzuki has been a failure to launch because from the US HQ down through the regional ranks to the local level, there is absolutely zero coordination of sales messaging, marketing support, strategy and coordination, and product distribution/availability. In fact, Suzuki set up its automotive marketing and product network even more haphazardly than it did its motorcycle channels, and that, as everyone in the bike industry knows, was wing-it-and-a-prayer. Best described as a rolling accident, I guess. So while modern manufacturers have three defined and coordinated tiers of marketing budgets and strategies, Suzuki, for all practical purposes, has none. It, as an entity in the US, never had a plan, never had a vision, didn't and doesn't have a workable structure on any (or across any) level. It would take an overhaul of epic proportions to right this ship, and many, many millions of dollars to fix US operations. Never mind its current and future product offerings. In short, against well-oiled operations like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda (and even Mazda, for that matter, comparatively speaking), Suzuki is as good now as they'll ever get in the US. Unfortunately (and consequently), that may no longer be enough to even survive.

  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Jul 25, 2012

    One little grammatical point-- you're not "towing a line" unless you're a deep-sea fisherman. Put your foot right behind the line, instead. Now, you're toeing it.

    • Mark Stevenson Mark Stevenson on Jul 27, 2012

      Hah, thanks for the lesson. Still going to keep it in there to show I am not infallible.

  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.
  • Dartdude Lorenzo, the reason for low manual transmission here is that most dealers won't stock them. I wanted a 2012 Kia Koup with manual tranny it was available, but no dealers ordered any from the factory hence there was none available. Go on any car manufacture's web site and price and build and build your model and you would be lucky if the model existed and was available.
  • The Oracle Good news is that based on the model years many of these have already been junked or experienced terminal engine failure.