Suzuki: In a Recession, Weak Brands Are Exposed.

Posted by: David Kiley on March 31, 2008

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American Suzuki chairman Rick Suzuki will be stepping down from his post, according to a letter he sent employees and was reported in Automotive News, to “bear responsibility” for the automaker’s poor sales and earnings.”
Rick Suzuki, 60, is the grandson of Michio Suzuki, founder of Suzuki Motor Corp.

You have to admire a guy who lays it out that way, and takes the blame. I don’t recall Dieter Zetsche making any similar pronouncements. Bill Ford, to his credit, admitted when he handed over the CEO job at Ford to Alan Mulally that he didn’t have the skill-set to navigate the crisis Ford was in. Ever hear a GM CEO simply bow out and say, “because I screwed up.”?

Granted, Mr. Suzuki can go back to Japan and ride out his days on the family fortune, so I’m not sure what penalty he will endure. But the honesty and accountability is refreshing.

In 2003 the company announced a five-year plan to attain sales of 200,000 automobiles and 300,000 motorcycles/ATVs,” the letter said. ” The five-year plan ended far from its goals, with sales of only 100,000 automobiles and 190,000 motorcycles/ATVs.”

As far as cars go, Suzuki has been a company that didn’t seem to be in the auto market with both feet. It has sold some totally forgettable passenger cars (the Swift and Verona). And it’s SUVs have ranged from silly (The Samurai) to marginally interesting (the XL-7).The Samurai burst on the scene in the late 1980s, only to be subsequently deeped un-safe by Consumer Reports because of its propensity to roll over. Those findings were disputed by Suzuki. What I do recall was that driving the Samurai felt only marginally safer than driving a shopping cart.

To be fair, the current crop of Suzuki’s are far more substantial. The trouble is that Suzuki automobiles don’t have a rep for anything but sub-par quality.

Advertising creative has actually found its voice in the last year after years of anonymity. But it’s been so long in coming, and its ad spending is so small compared with other brands, that the company can’t expect consumers to take a flyer on a brand with lower quality ratings than Volkswagen or Kia in the teeth of a Recession.

Sayonara Mr. Suzuki.

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Reader Comments

noz

March 31, 2008 08:49 PM

An honest assessment on your part, Herr Kiley. Suzuki has never measured up with its four-wheeled vehicles. The motorcycles, perhaps, in fact, no doubt. I an a HONDA person and would not know first hand.

The Sidekick was an accident waiting to happen, rather like the WWII Jeep in its tendency to tip. CR was right, and Suzuki did not make their case in fighting the accusation.

My thinking is that there are just some folks who should withdraw, cede the auto biz to those who do better, whose primary business it tends to be. And yes there are those who have knocked Toyota for the strange looking Echo, whatever, but it was an excellent car--just not for our market. Recall how dismal GM's efforts were in this regard?

So, as you said, sayonara Suzuki-san. You tried and failed, not the first in a very long line of all kinds of folks. I can only hope the same for Billary and Obama come November.


Otto

April 1, 2008 01:23 AM

Kudos to Mr. Suzuki for stepping up to the plate. Despite the fact that he probably has family money to fall back on, it's still no small thing for a senior Japanese manager to suffer this kind of loss of face. And - are you listening Hyundai and Kia - note that Suzuki departure hasn't come with any wholesale firing of its American senior management (yet).

John Tingley

April 2, 2008 08:28 AM

I am a proud owner of a SX4 ( the first was a SX70 ) let's be honest Suzuki has not done well here because of America's need for driving huge truck's and SUV's.

It's clear that none of you have done a long road trip in a SX4 the crossover has it all a small car that is very safe gives a good driving experience and is very nimble when someone driving a house down the freeway lacks common sense.

Suzuki will be with us for a long time because of excellance in the international battle. In the US Suzuki will need another 5 to 10 years not because of the quality of offerings now but to educate the public.

The SX4 crossover touring ( was sport in 2007 ) if use by the American Public would reduce our need for imported oil yet would be safer than most of the other's sold.

John Tingley a proud beliver in Suzuki

Dave

April 4, 2008 08:33 PM

I have owned 4 suzuki built cars. Starting with an 82 chev sprint, 92 metro 94 metro 2000 metro. Put over 100,000 miles then past them on to my grand kids.the 94 and 2000 are still seeing daily service with NO major repairs.
I also owned a 1985 Suzuki Calvalcade GV1400 motorcycle. FANTASTIC!

I finally had to resort to VW TDI to get the kind of economy i'm use to.

Dave

gary

August 13, 2008 12:18 AM

Suzuki builts excellent SUV's I have owned 2 and I never owned anything domestic that came close. I never realized how bad some automotive journalist are until I read reviews of XL-7's and GV's. I think Suzuki will do just fine...

Jim Demestihas

July 14, 2009 06:16 AM

I own a Sidekick sport JLX. It a little wider and a little more HP than the std Sidekick. It has the 1.8L DOHC versus the std 1.6 SOHC. Its an amazing vehicle. The quality is outstanding! Its never left me stranded.
Operating costs are low. Gas mileage is good but not great. Power is good but not great. It handles great. Dare I say almost as well as a sport oriented commuter car. I would definately buy another suzuki but..... the problem is they are now just re-badged vehicles that arent that good. I dont want a rebadged Kia, Hyundai, nissan, or GM vehicle.Suzuki needs to develop and sell its own vehicles. End of story.
I heard rumor they are working on a semi-luxury car to compete with the Camry?

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