Suzuki, a former client at Lucire, has reported that its Suzuki Swift model is now the second best selling car in New Zealand, based on July 2007 registrations.
Before you think it’s because we love subcompacts, think again. New Zealand has been a traditional full-size car market, with the Holden Commodore topping the charts year after year. It is still number one.
Rising fuel prices have a lot to do with Suzuki’s success, selling the sort of little car that Honda and Toyota used to. But with both companies pursuing the compact and mid-sized sectors—even the intermediate one with the Accord V6 and Aurion—Suzuki has really reaped some major rewards.
The important thing is that the Swift is a Japanese car with a European sensibility to its design, something that gels well with a country that is still largely Caucasian, with European tastes.
Previous Suzukis never fared this well. Even at the height of the oil crisis in the 1970s, you didn’t really see locally assembled Cervo and Fronte (Alto) models trounce the trifecta of Ford Escort, Ford Cortina and Ford Falcon. The Suzuki was too Japanese, too dinky.
We knew from the beginning this was a hit and meetings I had with Suzuki’s ad agency, Promotus Advertising, were optimistic.
What I never expected was to see the Swift overtake the Toyota Corolla and Auris—sold here as a Corolla, too. For most of the 1980s, the Corolla was the top-selling car in New Zealand.
And therein lies one of the problems with the car industry, plaguing it for years: each generation of car grows a little. The Toyota Corolla is now wider than the 1993 Corona. The Civic is now bigger than a 1980s Accord. All that happens is that the manufacturers start ever-smaller model lines, while deleting the ones from the top.
Ford of Europe has had this happen, with the Mondeo now the range-topper. The lineage which saw the Zodiac, Granada and Scorpio died some years ago when big Fords fell out of favour. Even Stateside, the full-size Ford—the Crown Victoria—is on its last legs.
Trace the Mondeo back and the Book of Genesis was the Ford Consul Cortina of 1962, which made do with a 1,198 cm³ engine.
The cycle will be nearly impossible to reverse: in its quest to beat a competitor, an automaker will upsize each generation, claiming that it has “more car”.
Only the Koreans and Italians keep a better lid on the growth of their models—not that that strategy served Fiat particularly well when it carried over older platforms for the Bravo, Brava and Marea in the 1990s. The Koreans, meanwhile, play a game of diminishing returns: Daewoo positioned the Nubira as a mid-sized alternative to the Opel Vectra and Ford Sierra. The car that descends from that, the Lacetti, unsuccessfully ﬁghts the Opel Astra and Ford Focus, both smaller cars.
There is no easy solution. Suzuki succeeded because in New Zealand, there was no continuity in the Swift name—it disappeared for a few years before coming back for the 2005 model year. And perhaps that is a clue.
Automakers are keen to show there is a lineage from one model to the next. This makes perfect sense: Volkswagen is unlikely to call its compact—now more mid-sized—Golf anything but, at least outside the US. In its ﬁfth generation, it seeks to capitalize on those who have always bought Golfs. It’s only when a company sees a radical change, or when the previous model gains a bad reputation, that the name changes—Ford’s Escort became Focus in 1998; Nissan ended its long-running Pulsar name this decade.
What if it brought forth the ideal car—and many New Zealanders obviously thought the Swift was an ideal, to make it number two—without that lineage, but revived an old name?
Holden could bring in the Opel Corsa D, for instance—in many respects exactly the sort of car New Zealanders seek, if the Swift is anything to go by. It has the right styling: chunky, sporty, solid. It is probably the best handling subcompact, the Fiat Grande Punto aside. Give it a new name—or even use Corsa (I realize the objections to coarser). Or ﬁnd an old name from the Holden archives. Slot it in above the Daewoo Kalos, or even replace the Lacetti.
In some ways, Ford did this with the original Taurus—while it might have ﬁlled the market gap of the old LTD, it was an all-new car designed to ﬁt the needs of the American market. I doubt many could claim that the Taurus was really an LTD successor.
Sometimes, not having a model lineage, especially in this unpredictable car market where things are changing as they did in the 1970s, can be an advantage, something that Suzuki cleverly identiﬁed with the Swift. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:01
The Swift is a slick looking car and they have the pricing right. I was following an eye wateringly yellow Swift Sport the other morning in the rush several hours and had time to study the design. It's really what the "New Mini" should have been...
Your comment on evolution and size is true. Even Fiat have allowed the Punto to grow, remember it's the new 127!, to the point where their is talk of a new Uno fitting between Panda & Punto.
It is a pity that the three-door Swift is not sold in New Zealand: I think it looks the business.
Even if you trace the Pandas lineage, it can go right back to the nuova 500 (if you remember the news reports in 1979 which said it was a 126 successor).
I fell in love when I first saw the Suzuki Swift. It feels like we're really meant to be. It is now my baby!Post a Comment
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