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8.8.07

Secrets of Suzuki’s Swift 

, a former client at Lucire, has reported that its model is now the second best selling in , based on July 2007 registrations.
   Before you think it’s because we love , think again. New Zealand has been a traditional full-size car market, with the topping the charts year after year. It is still number one.
   Rising have a lot to do with Suzuki’s success, selling the sort of little car that and 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 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.
    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 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: 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.
    are keen to show there is a lineage from one model to the next. This makes perfect sense: is unlikely to call its compact—now more mid-sized— 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 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 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 —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.
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Comments:
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.

See: http://rcd.typepad.com/personal/2007/07/the-mighty-fiat.html  
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 Panda’s 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!  
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Note

Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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