Volkswagen acquires 19.9% stake in Suzuki

December 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki VW logo

Volkswagen has just announced that it has “reached a common understanding to establish a close longterm strategic partnership” with Suzuki Motor Corporation. Rumours of such a match-up have been circulating for some months. Now, according to an official statement, VW will purchase 19.9 percent of Suzuki’s issued shares. In payback Suzuki will use up to half of the cash received from VW to buy a smaller stake in the Wolfsburg company.

Although the two automakers compete in some segments, there is a belief that they can compliment each other. VW has expertise in diesel technology and hybrid systems while Suzuki is quite strong in the fast-emerging Indian marketplace. Suzuki has a few tricks and in addition to cars and motorcycles builds marine transportation solutions and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

If the authorities approve the transaction, this new connection would create the world’s largest car manufacturing alliance. VW and Suzuki would surpass Toyota in terms of sales.

Consolidation seems to be the key word in the automotive industry again. Recently French company PSA Peugeot Citroën announced it was entering into a cooperative agreement with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors. Italy’s Fiat is now playing boss at Chrysler LLC while Nissan and Renault have been tight for about a decade now. Who knows what’s next, possibly a three-way partnership?

Suzuki Swift hybrid plug-in concept

October 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Swift hybrid fq

The popular Suzuki Swift has been a big player in new car sales here in NZ and now it’s taking on a new form. Suzuki has just announced that it will introduce a plug-in series hybrid version of the Swift at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, with an interesting powertrain.

The model, which is just a concept at this point, uses a 660 cc engine, probably sourced from a Japanese kei car. The engine charges the lithium-ion batteries, which are placed between the front seats. The batteries power a 54 kW motor that moves the front wheels.

More will be revealed about the Suzuki Swift hybrid at the Tokyo Motor Show, check back for updates.

New Suzuki Alto – cheapest new car in NZ

September 28th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Alt fqr

Suzuki’s all-new five-door Alto hatchback has arrived on the twentieth anniversary of the launching of the original version.

The latest seventh generation Alto is a far cry from the 1979 Alto SS80 which was assembled at the Suzuki plant in Wanganui.

The newest rendition is larger, stronger and higher specified, yet uses less fuel and boasts lower emission levels. It is the only car in its class with six air bags as standard. There is clear lineage, however, between the first generation Alto and the European inspired 2009 model.

Both are front wheel driven and are powered by three-cylinder engines, although the new Alto has a larger capacity motor producing more power.

In 5-speed manual gearbox form, the stylish Alto has a recommended retail price of $16,990, including on road costs, while the four-stage automatic transmission version is $18,500.

“Alto will redefine the term ‘value motoring’ with the lowest new car price currently available,” said Gary Collins, Automobile Sales Manager for Suzuki New Zealand Ltd. “Not only is the Suzuki $1,000 less than its nearest rival, it has two more air bags, superior fuel economy and far lower emissions,”

Aerodynamic styling translates into low wind noise and efficient operation while engine noise is well suppressed for enhanced occupant comfort.

The distinctive body shape majors on a smooth front end, large windscreen and bold headlamp design, elements that contribute to a low drag coefficient of 0.30.

New Alto is the fifth and smallest member of the Suzuki world strategic models and, with an overall length of 3,500mm, is only marginally smaller than the top-selling Suzuki Swift.

The concept was to build an eco friendly car with low CO2 emissions, low fuel consumption and lightness through downsizing.

At the same time, the car had to be smartly designed and embody a roomy, comfortable cabin with a good level of appointment.

One specification level is available in New Zealand in a package that includes power steering, electric operation for the front windows, air conditioning with pollen filter, digital clock, six air bags, front seat belt pretensioners, anti lock braking with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) function and brake assist function and full size spare wheel and tyre.

The Alto comes with halogen multi-reflector headlights, two-speed wipers with intermittent action, two trip meters and a rear window wiper and washer. A stereo audio tuner with compact disc/MP3 and auxiliary input socket for MP3 player is also standard.

In manual gearbox form, the car has a curb weight of 855 kg, rising to 880 kg for the automatic. The Alto scored four stars in recent ANCAP safety ratings.

There are twin front air bags, plus side and curtain air bags, energy absorbing trim and a head impact protection pad.  The brake pedal is designed to protect the foot in the event of an accident, and the car also includes ISO FIX child seat restraints, child-proof rear door locks, side impact beams front and rear and an engine immobiliser.

Alto’s new K10B double overhead camshaft engine is the result of three years’ development. This multi-point fuel injected three-cylinder unit has four valves per cylinder with an offset crankshaft offering better volumetric efficiency.

With a piston displacement of 996 cm3, the K10B develops 50 kW of power at 6,000 rpm and 90 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm.

In the official combined fuel cycle test, the Alto manual averages 4.8 litres/100 km (58.85 miles per gallon), while the automatic versions achieves 5.5 litres/100 km (51.36 miles per gallon).

With automatic transmission, the Alto has a top speed of 150 km/h, rising to 154 km/h for the manual gearbox variant. Ventilated disc brakes are fitted up front with rear drums, and the 14-inch diameter steel wheels are fitted with 155/65R tyres. Front suspension is by MacPherson struts and coil springs, with a highly rigid suspension frame complemented by further strengthening in the strut mounting areas for better handling.

The rear suspension comprises Suzuki’s proprietary three-link rigid axle design which has been tuned for optimum handling and stability in extensive testing on European roads.

Alto sits on a 2,360 mm wheelbase, is 1,470 mm high, a trim 1,600 mm wide, and has 150 mm ground clearance.

VW may take stake in Suzuki

September 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen logo

The rumours of a potential match between Suzuki and Volkswagen just keep coming. Last month, reports emerged that Volkswagen AG was interested in a small slice of Suzuki Motors. more recently a Suzuki executive at the Frankfurt Motor Show mentioned that an agreement between the two automakers would be in place by the end of the year.

What at first seems like an unlikely match makes total sense, for Suzuki and VW this connection would be a win-win situation. Suzuki would have access to a variety of VW’s technology, while Volkswagen would have a solid supporting leg in India and Southeast Asian markets.

Neither party has any official word on the matter. However, last Monday Martin Winterkorn, VW’s Chief Executive, said the product portfolio of the Japanese automaker would fit well with his company.

Suzuki launches new Swift RS in NZ

September 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Swift RS fq

A new version of the well established Suzuki Swift hatchback has been launched on the New Zealand market. Additional to the range, the new 1.5-litre Swift RS five-door offers a new choice.

This factory produced limited edition comes as Suzuki is celebrating 100 years in operation. While dominating the super-mini class for more than four years in NZ, the Swift is also the third top selling new car model overall.

Based on the dual airbag Swift GLX version, the RS features unique 15-inch aluminium alloy wheels, a rear upper spoiler, front fog lamps, smoked reflector headlamps and RS body decals.

Inside it’s individualised with sports bucket front seats trimmed in luxury Alcantara upholstery.

A leather bound steering wheel has special silver stitching, and the RS specification also includes climate air conditioning, keyless starting and entry and electrically folding door mirrors with built-in indicators.

Priced at $21,500 for the 5-speed manual and $22,990 for the automatic, the RS is available in Silver, Black, White Pearl, Red and Kashmir Blue.

In a further development of the Swift range, the GLX version now benefits from standard fitment of six airbags instead of two. Previously six airbags were exclusive to the higher level Ltd model.  The GLX now shares the same specifications as the Ltd version except for alloy wheels and front fog lamps.

The Swift GLX carries a recommended retail price of $21,500 in manual specification and $22,990 as an automatic, the same as the RS version.

“Suzuki did a tremendous job in the design of the Swift to not only give it such long-lasting appeal but also for it to still provide a driving experience unmatched in the class,” said Gary Collins, Automobile Sales Manager for Suzuki New Zealand Limited.

“The Swift continues to lead the mini-car and light segment while challenging larger car sales,” he said. Owners tend to be enthusiastic about their Swifts which is why so many of them are fitted with body kits, graphics, stripes, special alloy wheels and leather interiors.

The Swift RS is an answer to this, and the limited number being produced means there will never be many of them on our roads. Suzuki has 7.2 per cent of new car sales in New Zealand according to year to date statistics, with the Swift being the major contributor to this success.

The brand has been winning strong market share in 2009, registering a record 9 per cent in May with the Swift actually leading the market.

New Kizashi to expand Suzuki brand in NZ

August 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Kizashi fq

A new mid-size premium sedan is set to widen the Suzuki brand here in New Zealand next year. Making its world debut in Detroit recently, the Kizashi – the largest car ever built by Suzuki – is expected to arrive in New Zealand showrooms during the second quarter of 2010.

“It will provide an all-new market segment for Suzuki,” said Tom Peck, General Manager of Marketing for Suzuki New Zealand. “In doing so the Kizashi will extend the choices we can offer our customers wanting to move up from the Swift or SX4. The name Kizashi is pronounced ‘key-za-she’ and means a forerunner of things to come or something great is coming.”

Initial production begins at a brand new manufacturing facility in Sagara, Japan, and the car goes on sale in the United States at the end of this year.

Measuring 4,650mm in overall length and sitting on a wheelbase of 2,700mm, the Kizashi will compete with models like the Mazda6, Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Subaru Legacy.

Kevin Saito, president of American Suzuki, said, “Now that the production model Kizashi has arrived, we expect the name and the product itself to clearly demonstrate the bold statement this company knew it would be making with the debut of this vehicle.”

At the same time, he said the car suggests what will emerge in the Suzuki lineup as the marque looks to the future.  A bold front end, high waistline and original rear end styling give the model a stand-out appearance. The bootlid rises up in a curve to form a solid spoiler look and adds to the car’s flair. Kizashi is a key component in Suzuki’s rise as an aspirational fun-to-drive brand, not only in North America but in other markets, including New Zealand and Australia.

The Kizashi arrives with a fuel-efficient 2.4-litre double overhead camshaft, multi-valve, in-line 4-cylinder engine.

This power source has variable valve technology, alloy cylinder block and heads and aluminium pistons. Hybrid and V6 engine versions are likely to follow.

A multi-link rear suspension uses aluminium components for lightness and a four-wheel Bosch anti-lock braking system and eight air bags are standard.

Akebono, the specialist company that developed brakes for the Japanese Bullet train and high performance motor sport applications, helped hone the Kizashi’s four wheel disc braking system.

Development testing included high speed driving on German autobahns, through the testing Swiss Alps and rigorous laps of the gruelling Nurburgring circuit.

The car can be specified with a 6-speed manual gearbox or continuously variable automatic transmission with back-lit paddle controls.

An electronic stability system is standard and in the United States and the car will be available with leather upholstery and the choice of 16-inch, 17-inch and 18-inch wheels.

Projector beam headlights offer 30 per cent better illumination than halogen lights and there is LED lighting for the instrumentation.

In keeping with the car’s up-market stance, the new Suzuki will be available with optional three-stage heated seats with memory adjustment, a tyre pressure monitoring system, dual zone climate control air conditioning and rain sensing wipers.

“We are entering an exciting phase in Suzuki’s history with the arrival of all-new variants at both the top and entry-level market segments,” said Tom Peck.

Suzuki ready for centennial celebrations

July 28th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Centennial 3

It seems that 1909 was a busy year for automotive start-up companies with both Audi and Bugatti planning their centenary celebrations this year and so is Japanese carmaker Suzuki.

The history of Suzuki’s first 100 years is an interesting rags-to-riches story, beginning with a young loom-maker from Hamamatsu, Japan, named Michio Suzuki wanting to tackle the problem of producing fabrics with both vertical and horizontal stripes. From this distant starting point sprung the Suzuki Loom Company, which after some time began producing small engines to adapt bicycles into motorised vehicles in 1952.

A few years after that, Suzuki’s first automobile, the Suzilight, hit the market with a 360cc two-stroke engine and some clever innovations like front-wheel-drive and four-wheel independent suspension. By 1989, Suzuki was producing over 10 million cars per year through its own factories and global partnerships.

Today, Suzuki is a recognized global leader in small cars and motorcycles, with its SX4 and Swift being highly competitive vehicles in their segments.

According to Suzuki, the future will bring environmentally friendly technology, including the debuts of stop/start and variable valve timing at the next Geneva Motor Show. Looking further into the future hydrogen fuel cell technology is also on the way.

Suzuki Swift leads overall sales in NZ market

June 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Swift

The Suzuki Swift has become the first small supermini car to lead the New Zealand new car market in decades. Suzuki’s most popular model was the top-selling new car in May and posted a 13.4 per cent gain over the previous month, according to Motor Industry Association statistics. While the Swift hatchback has been the best selling supermini in New Zealand since its introduction in 2005, the May sales marked the first time the model had led overall sales.

Not only was May the best sales month for the Swift so far this year, but the result was 51 per cent up on the model’s average monthly sales for the first quarter of 2009. Suzuki registered a total of 253 new Swifts in May; while the second placed Toyota Corolla’s volume for the month was 22.5 per cent lower. For the first five months of this year the Swift remains the top selling supermini, and lays third overall behind the Corolla and Holden Commodore.

“This is the first time a Suzuki passenger car model has led the New Zealand car market,” said Tom Peck, General Manager of Marketing for Suzuki New Zealand Ltd. It comes as a welcome present as Suzuki celebrates its 100th year birthday, a milestone in the motor industry,” he said. “The on-going success of the model is further confirmation that the Suzuki nameplate is a solid contender in the local car market.”

The brand sold 352 passenger vehicles in May for an 8.8 per cent share of the total new car market and was the fourth best make overall, behind Toyota, Ford and Hyundai.

With its appealing styling and high level of dynamics, the Swift has been a consistent showroom winner with New Zealand car buyers.  “The Swift continues to expand its popularity not only in New Zealand but internationally,” said Tom Peck. “At the same time our other models are also doing well.”

In May the Suzuki Grand Vitara lifestyle Sport Utility Vehicle had its best sales month to date this year, with sales up 65 per cent on April. Demand for the versatile Suzuki SX4 also rose, with volume for May increasing by 13 per cent over the previous month. Mr Peck said sales of the compact, efficient Suzuki models reflected the growing awareness and popularity of smaller vehicles.

Seven versions of the European inspired Swift are available in New Zealand, with prices starting from $18,500. The car is available with 1.5-litre or 1.6-litre engines and the choice of manual or automatic transmission.