American Suzuki's product plans are murky--partly as a result of Volkswagen's acquisition of 20 percent of Suzuki Motor this year and partly because of the growing strength of the yen against the dollar.
The Swift, a small car popular in Europe and Japan, was scheduled to go on sale in the United States this year. But its release has been delayed until next year.
Engineering for the U.S. market was completed, and Suzuki was setting the price. But Suzuki's worldwide product plans are under review following the VW deal, said Steve Younan, vice president of product planning for American Suzuki Motor.
Suzuki and VW executives are looking for ways to share technology or vehicle platforms. The product review is due to be completed this fall, but don't expect to see the tie-up bear fruit for at least five years, Younan said.
Suzuki has other issues as it sets its product plans. The strengthening yen against the dollar must be considered as executives ponder pricing strategy for the Swift. "At the moment, if the exchange rate continues like it is, we couldn't expect very much profit," said Takuma Mizuyoshi, a Suzuki spokesman in Japan. "So that's a concern right now."
Also, U.S. sales for the brand have been in free fall. About 50 dealers have accepted buyout offers from the company in the past six months. But executives insist there are no plans to pull out of the United States.
Here are highlights of Suzuki's product plans for the next three model years.
Swift: The Honda Fit-size Swift, pulled from the United States after the 2001 model year, was scheduled to return this fall. The Swift now is expected to debut in 2011, but Suzuki has not been more specific. The redesigned Swift debuted in Japan last month but will be sold only there and in Europe for now.
SX4: The versatile sedan that has spawned crossover and sporty hatchback derivatives will get a number of minor changes for the 2011 model year. And Suzuki will cut the sticker price of the 2011 SX4 Sportback version from more than $18,000 to the mid-$16,000 range. Expect a restyling of the SX4 for the 2012 model year.
Kizashi: The sporty-yet-smallish mid-sized sedan will be offered only with its current four-cylinder powertrain for the 2011 model year. Plans for optional V-6 and hybrid powertrains have been scuttled. That technology was going to come from General Motors, which sold its 20 percent stake in Suzuki last year.
A freshening of the higher-trim 2011 GLS and SLS versions includes a new front fascia with a lower grille. Also, Sport trim levels will be added to the GLS and SLS.
Grand Vitara: The SUV will lose its V-6 powertrain for the 2011 model year, a casualty of GM's split from Suzuki. The 2011 Grand Vitara's only engine will be a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 166 hp and 162 pounds-feet of torque.
Equator: Suzuki's pickup is essentially a rebadged Nissan Frontier, and its future depends on whether the product-sharing deal will continue with the next-generation Frontier.
New crossover: A vehicle based on the Kizashi platform was rumored to be in the works, but the Volkswagen deal put the plans on the back burner.
(Source: Automotive News)