Friday, June 22, 2012

At Suzuki, 2 + 2 = 0.2 (percent)

In my normal morning coffee news-prowl, I followed a link to a story on the 24/7 Wall Street site carrying the headline, 10 brands that will disappear in 2013.

Suzuki was on the list, which made me think, "OK, times are hard, but Suzuki's not that close to the edge. Or is it?"

It turned out that the story was about Suzuki's car division, and I think it must really be about the car division here in the U.S. At least, there's no indication in the piece that Suzuki's global car sales are disastrous. Still, for what it's worth, IIRC, after the Bush meltdown, American Suzuki blended the administrations of the car and motorcycle groups to a certain extent. That presumably means that the motorcycle guys are sharing overhead with the car guys, and that if the car guys simply pack up and vanish, the moto guys will have to cover the whole nut.

Suzuki's cars, small SUVs and crossovers have not managed to help its motorcycle successes, uh, cross over into the auto sector.
For what it's worth, here's what they had to say about Suzuki's failure to attract U.S. car buyers...

American Suzuki Motor sold 10,695 cars and light trucks in the first five months of this year. That was down 3.9% compared with the same period in 2011. The sales gave the manufacturer a U.S. market share of just 0.2%. One reason the company has trouble moving its vehicles is the poor reputation of its cars. In the 2012 JD Power survey of U.S. vehicle dependability, Suzuki’s scores in power-trains, body and materials, and features and accessories were below those of almost every other brand. One sign Suzuki is having trouble selling its vehicles is that it currently offers a very aggressive zero-percent financing package for 72 months on all of its 2012 cars, trucks and SUVs. Even with aggressive sales tactics, Suzuki cannot improve its position in the American market. Most of its cars sell for less than $20,000 and its trucks and SUVs for under $25,000.  Almost every other manufacturer with a broad range of vehicles has flooded this end of the market with cheap, fuel-efficient models. Arguably the most successful car company in the U.S. based on growth — Hyundai — does particularly well in this segment.

Read more: 24/7 Wall St. Ten Brands That Will Disappear In 2013 - 24/7 Wall St.

For my money, the ticket to Suzuki's success would have been to fit the now-discontinued Suzuki Aerio with the motor from a Hyabusa. Now that would've been cool. As it is, I still have to continue fantasizing about shoe-horning a 'busa mill into a Smart Car.

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