After nearly a three-decade run in the United States market, Suzuki has decided to cease selling automobiles here to focus on its core markets in India and Southeast Asia.
Those of us in the industry weren’t surprised by the announcement that American Suzuki Motor Corporation was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but we’ll admit to being a bit saddened by it.
Suzuki, you see, built some of the best cars that consumers never knew about. Its SX4 hatchback delivered an entertaining experience behind the wheel, served up reasonable fuel economy and did this for thousands less than the VW Golf.
It was even available in a sedan variant for less than $14,500 in base trim, something that can’t be said for many new cars these days.
Suzuki’s last-best-shot at mainstream success was its Kizashi sedan, which was well-received by most of us on this side of the computer screen. The car was solidly-built, delivered impressive road manners and even returned up to 31 mpg highway.
A hybrid variant was even said to be in development, though this never progressed beyond the concept stage.
The Kizashi was a legitimate competitor to cars like the VW Jetta and the Ford Fusion, but (oddly) Suzuki chose to position it against the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series in what could only be described as an utter marketing failure.
Suzuki’s troubles here began long before a disasterous Kizashi marketing campaign, however. The automaker was torpedoed by Consumer Reports after its small Samurai sport utility vehicle failed to meet the publication's rollover test standards.
Even the Sidekick, the SUV that Suzuki designed to be safer than the Samurai, soon earned a reputation for being top-heavy, and the automaker’s sales suffered (though oddly, the badge-engineered Geo Tracker enjoyed reasonable sales success).
Lack of a significant dealer network hurt Suzuki in the United States as well; after all, what good is building decent cars at a fair price if consumers can’t buy one locally?
American Suzuki Motor Corporation’s bankruptcy will have no bearing on the manufacturer’s motorcycle, ATV and marine engine business, and Suzuki plans on maintaining its existing auto dealer network to service owners.
While Suzuki won’t import any additional inventory, it plans to sell through the models in U.S. stock. If you’re shopping for a new car and are willing to roll the dice on long-term service and parts availability, we’d bet there are bargains to be had at your local Suzuki dealer.
Assuming, that is, you still have a local Suzuki automobile dealer.