20 000 reasons to celebrate at Suzuki Auto SA

At the same time, the company has reaffirmed its commitment to the SA market with confirmation that it plans to introduce at least four additional models locally over the next two years.

“The wide market acceptance of our local model line-up has strengthened the commitment of Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) to the SA market,” says Yamashita Kazuyuki, managing director of Suzuki Auto SA.

“As a result, studies for the introduction of an additional four models over the next two years are already far advanced. Further to this, we continue to expand the Suzuki dealer network, and plans are well underway to achieve our target of 35 dealers.”

Suzuki Auto SA officially commenced local operations in January 2008, but retail sales only started with the launch of the previous-generation Suzuki Swift, and the SX4, in June of that year.

Exactly four years and three months later, the company has sold its 20 000th vehicle on South African soil.

The achievement is all the more remarkable because it was attained against the backdrop of the most competitive period in the history of the local motor industry, with in excess of 2 000 model derivatives vying for the attention of a demanding and value-conscious vehicle-buying public.

The debut of the Swift and the SX4 in June 2008 not only marked the first public activity of Suzuki Auto SA, a division of Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC), but also heralded a significant commitment by SMC to the SA passenger car market. At the time, the initial investment was valued at R106-million.

The Suzuki Auto SA venture is an integral part of SMC’s global growth strategy – a strategy that has since been vindicated, in local terms, by the brand’s ongoing success in the passenger and recreational vehicle markets.

Suzuki Auto SA’s growth has been driven by a combination of ever-increasing brand equity and a range expansion that has seen the number of model offering increase from the initial two to the current tally of six nameplates.

The Swift soon found a successful niche as a distinctive, aspirational and value-added alternative to more established segment players, while the innovative SX4 offered buyers a unique mix of versatility, practicality and dynamic appeal.

Both cars attracted the attention of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists, which nominated the Suzuki duo as finalists in the 2009 Car of the Year competition – a resounding accolade only months after their local launch.

By September 2008, these two pioneering Suzuki products were joined by a brace of leisure vehicles in the form of the diminutive but iconic Jimny 4×4, and the Grand Vitara sports utility vehicle.

The Jimny’s giant-killing all-terrain capability is the stuff of legends, while the Grand Vitara’s low-range all-wheel drive system places it a notch above the soft-roader segment as far as outright 4×4 talent is concerned. Both found a ready stream of buyers from the outset.

By the end of 2008, Suzuki Auto SA was able to cap an emphatically successful entry into the local market by being named Car Magazine’s Manufacturer Of The Year.

On a global scale, Suzuki celebrated its 100th year of existence during 2009, but in SA, the year was marked by the arrival of the fifth model range to the local Suzuki line-up. The Alto supermini extended the Suzuki brand values of quality, efficiency and value into even more affordable territory than before.

Its unique virtues were again widely recognised by a buying public increasingly seeking a frugal, compact and affordable motoring solution without having to compromise on safety, technology or quality. The Alto’s popularity was subsequently underscored by its nomination as a 2010 Car of the Year finalist – the third Suzuki model in only two years to reach the finals.

The Alto wasn’t the only Suzuki attracting awards: the Jimny was voted Women’s Favourite 4×4 by the Women On Wheels supplement, published annually in several high-profile magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Oprah and House & Leisure.

No wonder that Suzuki Auto SA could reflect on a strong sales performance after its first full year of operation, posting a growth of 35 percent against a market that declined by 29 percent. Its retail network was also expanding, and by mid-2009 consisted of 23 dealerships.

In 2010, the SX4 benefited from a significant model update that not only included a revised exterior and interior improvements, but also added a unique all-wheel drive version to the range – a first in its segment.

There was also good news for performance motoring fans with the arrival, in June 2010, of the Swift Sport, featuring kart-like handling characteristics linked to more power and an eye-catching three-door body.

Meanwhile, the venerable Jimny was celebrating its 40th birthday, emphasising the feisty little all-terrainer’s legendary status, and Suzuki’s long-standing tradition of building compact but highly competent all-terrain vehicles.

At Suzuki Auto SA’s head office, there was another reason to celebrate. Just 29 months after first opening its doors, the company had posted 10 000 vehicle sales.

In new model terms, 2011 was the most important for Suzuki Auto SA since commencing operations in SA. An all-new Swift made its local debut in March, introducing a larger form factor, further improved interior packaging, and even closer focus on tactile quality and a more advanced – and more economical – drivetrain.

But perhaps Suzuki Auto’s most significant new model addition was the introduction of its first ever medium sedan, the ground-breaking Kizashi, in October 2011.

Despite representing Suzuki’s first foray beyond the compact segment, the Kizashi’s aggressive styling, sumptuous interior and involving road manners were widely hailed by the motoring media.

That praise would lead to the Kizashi becoming Suzuki Auto SA’s fourth Car of the Year finalist in just four years when it was nominated for the 2012 COTY title. Suzuki remains the only brand to have achieved COTY finalist status for all of its passenger car name plates.

Almost exactly two years after celebrating its 10 000 vehicle sales milestone, there’s more reason to rejoice at Suzuki Auto SA, with the 20 000 sales tally achieved at the end of August 2012.

“The entire Suzuki Auto SA team can be immensely proud of this achievement,” says Yamashita-san. “The new vehicle market has never been more competitive, while factors such as the softening exchange rate and rising fuel prices are also influencing trading conditions.

“Against that backdrop, reaching the 20 000 sales tally is particularly gratifying, and will serve to further inspire both our head office team and the Suzuki Auto retail network to even greater successes in the future,” he concluded.