Drive Type: 4 wheel drive
Trim: 2 door
Waterford Works, New Jersey, United States
The death of Suzuki's American automotive operations can be chalked up to many, many things. One thing it cannot be blamed on, however, is the arguable goodness of its products. The company's criminally underrated offerings included the Kizashi sedan, the SX4 compact and your author's personal favorite, the Grand Vitara.
The GV rode on a radically different version of General Motors' Theta platform, which underpins the American manufacturer's current crop of crossovers, like the Chevrolet Equinox. What made the Grand Vitara special, though, was that it wasn't just another run-of-the-mill CUV. Buying the cheapest model meant living with rear-wheel drive rather than the Theta's typical front drive. Spend a bit of money, though, and you'd end up with an honest-to-goodness off-roader, sporting selectable four-wheel drive complete with low-range gearbox. It also comfortably sat five, was reasonably efficient and was quite handsome. We aren't totally sure how it turned into this.
This, of course, being the new Vitara (it replaces the Escudo, the vehicle Americans know as the Grand Vitara), and it will make its global debut at October's Paris Motor Show, which has ditched its four-wheel-drive system for a part-time all-wheel-drive system called Allgrip.
We haven't heard much about Suzuki since it decided to leave the US market in 2012, but things are going well for the little automaker these days with the recent announcement of record annual profits. It would seem that investors should be ecstatic, but they are starting to question the man at the helm. Company president and chairman Osamu Suzuki is now 84 years old and is guaranteed at least one more year as the leader, but shareholders want to know who is taking his place when the inevitable happens.
We're not being ageist, here. As long as the Suzuki can run the company to the satisfaction of investors, he absolutely deserves the top spot. According to Bloomberg, the issue making shareholders so edgy is that the business doesn't have a transition plan in place. The president obviously isn't a young man, and folks are worried that if something happens suddenly, there could be chaos deciding a successor and a free-falling stock price.
Suzuki's tenure at the company is somewhat astounding. He married the granddaughter of the founder and took her name because the family had no male heirs. In world where many people hope to retire as soon as possible, he's worked for the same automaker for the last 50 years, including stints as company president from 1978 to 2000 and 2008 to the present. Investors aren't questioning the president's ability as a business leader; they just want a clearer understanding of the automaker's future direction.
Yesterday's announcement that American Suzuki has filed for bankruptcy is all but a death blow for the Japanese automaker's 246 US dealers, but if there's any good news coming out of the situation, it could be the fact that the whole process will likely be quick and painless rather than drawn out. WardsAuto is reporting that with the current inventory and average sales numbers so far this year, there figures to be about three months left for Suzuki's new-car business in the US given current sales rates.
In October, Suzuki sold 2,023 units - a five percent increase over last year - but with just 5,549 left in inventory, it shouldn't take too long to wind down operations. Sales for the brand peaked 2007 with more than 100,000 units sold, but this year, Suzuki is barely on pace to reach a quarter of that amount, with just 21,188 units sold so far in 2012. In addition to poor sales, WardsAuto also notes that Suzuki faced problems due to its reliance on customers with subprime credit.
Suzuki will continue to sell motorcycles, ATVs and marine engines in the US, while the brand's cars will still be on sale in other countries including Canada and Mexico.