By on May 31, 2016

Osamu and Toshihiro Suzuki

After the Mitsubishi fuel economy scandal triggered a Japan-wide investigation into fuel economy claims, Suzuki is now in a similar situation as its diamond-starred competitor.

But the reasoning behind Suzuki’s misdeed is different: the automaker, it claims, was destitute.

According to Automotive News, Suzuki blames its own fuel consumption rating scandal on a lack of funds. It couldn’t afford to perform the regulated tests after the 2008 global financial crisis, the automaker claims.

Before we delve into the latest claim, let’s hit the rewind button and get caught up.

On May 18, Suzuki admitted it made mistakes in how it calculated fuel economy for its entire lineup of cars. The basics: Japanese regulations require that vehicles be road tested to calculate air resistance figures, but Suzuki calculated those numbers during wind tunnel tests. The automaker admitted to using that method since 2010.

Initially, Suzuki stated its engineers performed these tests indoors because its test facility is located near the ocean where it’s fairly windy, and engineers “just wanted to get consistent data,” said a representative for the automaker.

On May 22, The Japan Times reported Suzuki submitted to government officials weather data from its test facility to support its claims, and denied trying to boost fuel efficiency figures. The Japanese government ordered Suzuki to submit a full report by May 31.

Which brings us to today. Suzuki claims a total of 26 separate vehicle models are affected — 14 sold by Suzuki and 12 by other brands — representing a total of 2.14 million vehicles produced. It then explained the reasons why measurements were taken by improper means:

In order to correspond to fuel efficiency regulations strengthening worldwide, Suzuki had been developing a method to measure the resistance of each component and resistance factors. By 2010, Suzuki was able to predict driving resistance data of the coasting test to a certain degree of accuracy through accumulating the measurement of individual components and resistance factors.

Meanwhile, after the global financial crisis of 2008 caused by the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers, the increased workload of developing new models and engines led Suzuki to be unable to allocate sufficient manpower for the coasting test, and in addition, failed to invest in necessary infrastructure for the coasting test as well as to make efforts to improve testing technology.

Due to the above circumstances, Suzuki failed to measure driving resistance through the coasting test with the type approval vehicle as was regulated by the MLIT, and was using driving resistance data accumulated from actual measurement of individual components and resistance factors at the time of type approval application.

On March 31, 2009, Suzuki Motor Corp. reported ¥480.4 billion, or $4.65 billion US dollars as of that date, in cash and cash equivalent assets. That’s not exactly poor, but still a low enough level that Osamu Suzuki was likely counting his R&D pennies.

Thankfully, there’s a silver lining in the clouds around Suzuki’s Shizuoka Prefecture testing facility. When retested, the vehicles achieved better fuel consumption than originally rated and marketed.

However, some major pieces remain unclear.

Why is it that Suzuki continued this practice after an influx of cash from Volkswagen in 2010? Even after buying back its stock from the Germans, Suzuki has more on-hand cash than it did in 2009. Japanese investigators will likely probe lightly for answers.

Suzuki is expected to come out of this semi-scandal in one piece, unlike Mitsubishi, which has been partially gobbled up by Nissan. The same fate could have befallen Suzuki had its fuel economy results turned out differently.

Suzuki isn’t coming out of this situation completely unscathed, however. May brought a 16-percent decline in sales for the automaker, and its share price is 34-percent less than it was a year ago.

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11 Comments on “Suzuki Finds Silver Lining in Clouds Around Shizuoka Prefecture...”

  • avatar

    I’m hopeful Suzuki will pull through and be successful. Its a shame they had to leave our market.

    I still want me an Esteem 5 speed, and one day it would be awesome to import a later model Jimny. I’ve been seeing some Aerios popping up, found a red 5 speed yesterday and was actually thinking it may not be a bad choice if we decide to get another car instead of a truck, SUV or van.

    • 0 avatar

      I spent a lot of time overseas in places where off road Suzukis are common. Don’t think I can prefer a suzuki car to a Nissan or Toyota but I sure like all the Jeep type trucklets. Hmmm…. now that I think of it I cannot recall one that was flipped over. Is that an american thing?

      • 0 avatar

        That’s what happens when you take a vehicle that was designed to putt along on unimproved dirt roads and try to make it a high speed highway flyer.

  • avatar

    Tne Esteem/Cultus is the car Saul Goodman drives. Why would anyone want such a penalty box? Also the Jimny is famous for being the most unsafe vehicle for sale over here but it gets a free pass as it has great offroad performance.

    Again, why? They have a lack of portfolio.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh really? I thought the Jimny was a Mazda Miata and the Esteem was a BMW M3! Thanks for clearing that up. And I had no idea Saul Goodman drives an obscure Suzuki…probably because I don’t know (or care) who that is.

      Golly, shame on me for liking cars I like.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Interesting claim.

    So the engineers used conservative numbers and came out ahead in this game.

    What isn’t clear to me is why they couldn’t put a whole car into a wind tunnel. It’s not like they’d have to use a scaling technique for that, as one does for an airplane or a rocket.

    Perhaps the problem was the number of permutations requiring testing – different tire widths, vehicle heights, sunroofs, roof racks, and other variables. Perhaps they performed a Design of Experiments to tabulate the possibilities, then compiled projections for each vehicle.

    The summation of minor errors/unknowns at each step would accumulate to the minor scandal they have now.

  • avatar

    Destitution leads to prostitution

    So what was VW’s excuse?

  • avatar

    Still in recovery mode from the March 2011 tsunami I doubt either the Japanese government or people will judge too harshly.

    Quick whiff of blame it on outside influence like Lehman brothers.

  • avatar

    So, what other testing did Suzuki fudge to save money? Emissions, safety, etc? Based on last week’s crash videos of the Indian product, I suspect they tested the clay models.

    • 0 avatar

      The clay car exhibited excellent energy absorption, the crash test dummy’s head was however difficult to remove from the center console due to stiction.

  • avatar

    As a Grand Vitara owner, I can say corners were not cut on this vehicle. Well, except for lacking body finish paint in the engine bay and having interior floor carpet that would make a rat feel naked. It’s the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned, despite ours being the first year of that generation. It has large outside mirrors that exact a price in mileage, but add to safety. It has a large 12V battery, rather than the motorcycle-size battery used in similar cuv’s. Reinforcement under the unibody, and full-time awd also cost mileage. It doesn’t surprise me that the mileage numbers were mistaken on the high side. But sales of the GV in North America certainly were hurt by the mileage numbers. Btw, the Grand Vitara is still being produced and sold in some parts of the world. That makes the generation extend from 2006-2016.

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