After a bit of a lean trot in new product development, Suzuki is now gearing up for a significant range expansion that it projects will help it almost double Australian sales within three years.
Over the next three years to 2017 the company intends to launch as many as six new models to its range — not replacements for current models, mind, but rather incremental increases to its product portfolio.
Suzuki itself admits it played things a little too safe during the GFC, slashing its R&D spend on new models for perhaps 18 months longer than it should have. Given new models take about four years to develop, it seems the fruits of its revived labours are now about ready to ripen.
Trading on what it sees as its core strengths in the (booming) small SUV and (not-so-booming) light- and small-car markets, as well as its brand pillars of toughness and good packaging, the company projects it can net around 30,000 annual sales inside three years.
Some of these new models we already know about. The new Celerio range-opener, for instance, will arrive from its Thai production base in February as a higher-class and more spacious replacement for the Alto. Whether it retains the Alto’s basement price remains up in the air.
Just after the middle of 2015, Suzuki will then launch the eagerly awaited reborn Vitara, a more rugged and edgy small SUV sibling to the S-Cross with a range of colour customisation options and some high-tech features such as (likely standard) Apple Car Play and Mirrorlink integration.
That car, which will battle the likes of the Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-3 from around $25K, will join the S-Cross and re-introduced Jimny Sierra in a bold push into the popular small SUV segment. Suzuki hopes it can net up to 10 per cent share of the segment’s private sales, which would be a boon.
In 2015 alone, Suzuki is unsurprisingly projecting 20 per cent sales growth, which would return it to its 2013 volumes after a dreary 2014 campaign in which it has battled supply constraints on the Swift (as part of a switch from Thailand to Japan) and S-Cross out of Hungary.
This year Suzuki has sold 14,441 vehicles, down 20.8 per cent. The Swift is its top seller with 7683 sales (down 18 per cent), with the Grand Vitara (1782, down 37 per cent), Alto (1533, down 38 per cent) and S-Cross (1456, up from almost nil as it’s a new model) its other best sellers.
Moving into 2016, and you can expect to see the arrival of the Thai or Japanese-built (it’s unclear) C-segment hatchback that has been spied in testing. This car will give Suzuki what appears to be a ready-made rival to the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 in Australia’s most populous segment.
Should this car come to Australia — as Suzuki’s local team no doubt hopes — it will be one part of a trio of core models along with the venerable Swift (Australia’s second most popular privately sold light car this year behind only the Mazda 2) and the Vitara, which Suzuki hopes can net as many as 500 monthly sales — a not uncommon figure for the Holden Trax or Volkswagen Tiguan.
What else sits in the pipeline is a little less clear, although it is understood that Suzuki has internally given the green light to roll out a new-generation Jimny Sierra, though when that lobs we just don’t know.
Given the company’s push into compact-mad Europe and its strength in Asian markets that favour small cars, the new-generation Grand Vitara has been pushed back and will not emerge until 2017 at the earliest, meaning the current version will run for a lifecycle of at least 12 years.
Other areas of interest for the company are the development of a three-row seven-seat SUV, although its withdrawal from the US market no doubt hurts that business case, and potentially another light/small car player, perhaps a baby sedan (though that last part is pure speculation based on market trends).
Suzuki Australia has also pushed the case internally for its Japanese parent to move into fuel-efficient direct-injected low-displacement turbo engines — opening the door to a pukka Swift Sport down the track — and it is understood that the company is strongly considering such a step inside 12-18 months.
Whatever the future may hold beyond what we know, Suzuki Australia wants to spread the message that it has a spate of new metal around the corner. After some lean times, the Japanese company looks to be back with a vengeance.