Suzuki Australia makes bold mission statement

Wants to be Australia’s most popular 'compact' passenger and SUV brand, among private buyers at least.
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It’s hard for small-volume, albeit highly profitable, brands to stand out in the super-fragmented Australian car market. But Suzuki Australia is nevertheless getting aggressive with its sales targets.

Speaking this week at the launch of the new Jimny and upgraded Vitara, Suzuki Australia (Queensland excluded, given it has a different distributor) general manager Michael Pachota said the company’s mission statement was to be the market’s most popular compact passenger and SUV brand among private buyers.

While that target is a little vague by nature, other stated aims are to be number one among private buyers (fleets excluded) in the so-called Light Car segment, and top three in the Small SUV segment.

It also wants to be top three in CSI, or customer satisfaction.

“Suzuki Australia’s fundamental premise of continued sales growth remains unchanged, we continue to strive towards [these] primary goals,” Pachota said.

So, how is it going so far? Well, Suzuki finished 16th in market last year, smooshed between Audi and Land Rover in volume terms, with 17,610 sales. This was down 8.6 per cent over 2017’s tally, in an overall market down by 3.0 per cent.

There are variables though. For one, this tally includes sales to government, rental and business fleets, whereas Suzuki’s goal applies purely among private buyers who make up a little under half the total market.

Clearly Suzuki’s focus is on light- and small-sized vehicles. In the Light Car segment where it wants to be number one, it fields two models: the Swift and Baleno. Combined sales in 2018 were 9856 units, enough for 13.5 per cent market share.

This puts it third behind Mazda (14.8 per cent share) and Hyundai (21.5 per cent). Mazda is largely private-market-focused, though Hyundai is not averse to doing fleet deals on the Accent. It’s an achievable target, seemingly, though topping the Mazda 2 is a tough ask.

On the Small SUV front, Suzuki is particularly well represented. The industry’s VFACTS database (overseen by the FCAI peak body) lists four Suzuki models in this class, albeit somewhat questionably including the Ignis in these ranks!

In 2018, the sales of Suzuki’s so-classified small SUVs went: Vitara (5023), S-Cross (323), Ignis (1435) and Jimny (119). That was enough for 5.7 per cent market share. Mitsubishi’s share was 21.6 per cent for comparison, though its ASX volume driver has a big fleet presence. The likes of Mazda, Honda, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota all sit ahead, too.

Granted, this year there’s an updated Vitara and the brand new Jimny, which will be supply constrained to 1100 units for 2019. Still, if you don’t aim high, then what’s the point?

As far as CSI goes, Suzuki’s mission is on the right track, having taken out Canstar Blue’s customer satisfaction survey last year. That survey rated Suzuki a maximum five stars in the areas of overall satisfaction, reliability and value for money. It also took out the award for ‘Most Satisfied Customers – Small Cars’ for the third year running.

Last year JD Power also had Suzuki listed as above average following a survey of 4586 owners, level pegging with Hyundai, but behind Mazda, Toyota and Nissan. But Roy Morgan’s industry study based on 50,000 surveys had Skoda first. It’s… variable.

Does Suzuki have a shot? Let us know what you think in the comments.