Suzuki is working on a small car that will become a direct rival to hatchbacks such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3.
The Japanese brand is turning to a more conventional small car as its current contender, the SX4 crossover, continues to struggle to achieve the kind of sales volume enjoyed in the segment by other manufacturers.
It’s not yet clear when the new small car will go into production, but it is likely to be underpinned by the new C-segment platform being used for the showroom version of the company's S-Cross SUV Paris motor show concept.
Suzuki Australia boss Tony Devers says planning for a model that would effectively be a larger version of the popular, city-sized Swift hatch (above) is underway.
“There is a plan [for a small car],” Devers told CarAdvice. “Suzuki is a very conservative company, and we’re the only manufacturer to be profitable for 60 years in a row, because we don’t have too many peaks and troughs.
“But now Mr Suzuki has said to the R&D guys, ‘Let’s go’. So there’s going to be quite a few new cars coming through in the next few years.
“In the small car segment, and the larger SUV segment, they’re all cars we’d like. They’re cars we would like to position [in the market].
“We know there’s something in pipeline [for the small car] but we’ve not seen anything. We’ve indicated what we would like [in terms of the small car].
“It’s got to be a genuine small car. The SX4 is in a league of its own. It’s a bit of a no man’s land. Let’s call it unique. The engine’s fantastic. [But] the dimensions are too small to be a genuine small car like Corolla, Civic, etc.
“We’re actually looking at repositioning [the SX4]. We know the car’s too good to represent the volume we’re doing.
“We’re doing about 2000 a year, we should be doing 8000 to 10,000 [in the small-car segment].”
Small cars are the biggest segment in Australia, though the Suzuki Swift city car comprehensively outsells the SX4 (above). Year to date sales figures to August reveal 8075 Swifts were sold in Australia compared with 1212 SX4s.
Suzuki Australia sales have hovered about the 24,000 to 25,000 mark in recent years and will be similar for 2012 based on year to date figures.
Devers believes new products, including a production version of the 2012 Paris motor show S-Cross concept, will help grow volume and market share.
“The new small SUV will be great but we still need more cars,” he said. “We still only operate currently in about 48 per cent of the market. We don’t have a large SUV, for example.
“We’re getting about 2.5 per cent market share now. We’re probably going to get 26,000 to 27,000 sales this year. My aim is to get to 30,000 then 40,000 and that’s through incremental product. We’re in the growth segments to start with, so that’s a plus. We wouldn’t want to be in the large car segment.
“Some manufacturers want to do 80,000, but sometimes small is beautiful and 40,000 is about where we’re at [with maximum sales], about three to four per cent market share.”
Devers says the Ertiga people-mover that was shown at the 2012 Auto Delhi Expo has been ruled out for the local market. Suzuki Australia did investigate the model but has decided it doesn’t provide a sufficient business case for what is a tiny part of the market.