Suzuki's Spectacular Year: Unveiling New Models, Breaking Records, and Winning Hearts
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It was a successful year for Suzuki, one of South Africa’s favourite car brands.
The company introduced several new models, including one of South Africa’s most affordable commercial vehicles, and set a number of new sales records along the way. While this would be enough for any company, Suzuki Auto South Africa also set a new Guinness World Record and took over the sleepy town of Clarens to celebrate with its fans.
“It has certainly been the busiest year yet for Suzuki Auto since we opened our doors in South Africa in 2008,” says Brendon Carpenter, Brand Marketing Manager of Suzuki Auto South Africa.
“It is very encouraging to see this perpetual increase in momentum. It means that South Africa has wholeheartedly accepted Suzuki, its products and its outlook on affordable, reliable and fun mobility.”
Welcome to Mzansi
Any reflection on the past year should start with the new models that landed on local shores.
The year started early for Suzuki Auto when it launched the Suzuki Eeco panel van.
The Eeco joins the Super Carry as two of South Africa’s most affordable commercial vehicles, measured not only in purchase price, but also in the cost of maintenance and the average fuel economy.
The Eeco offers customers the reliability and low fuel consumption of Suzuki’s 1.2 litre K12N petrol engine, with the creature comforts and safety features of a Suzuki passenger vehicle. This includes ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), ESP stability control, dual front airbags, air conditioning and lockable side and rear doors.
In April, Suzuki welcomed a new flagship to the brand’s local range.
The new Suzuki Grand Vitara not only offered a new level of luxury, technology and ride comfort to Suzuki lovers, but it also introduced Suzuki’s first hybrid powertrain.
“The Grand Vitara has set the bar for luxury in the compact SUV range with head up display, a large touch screen infotainment system, automatic climate control and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto,” says Carpenter.
In August this year, Suzuki introduced the exciting new Suzuki Fronx. This model introduced the concept of a sporty coupé SUV to the compact SUV segment.
The Fronx offered a fresh and well-specified alternative in the market for compact SUVs, and it is surely no surprise that it has become one of the brand’s top sellers. As with other Suzuki models, the Fronx has a very high level of specification, including LED headlamps and tail lamps, large alloy wheels, a touchscreen infotainment system and climate control.
Not done yet, Suzuki Auto South Africa added another large vehicle to its line-up in August with the Suzuki XL6. This model’s name hints to its extra-large cabin and the fact that it offers space for six people thanks to its 4.445 metre length.
The XL6 has become a firm favourite for families and transport operators, thanks in part to its frugal but willing 1.5 litre petrol engine and its unique cabin layout that has two captain seats in the middle row and a 50:50 split rear seat.
In November, the barrage of new models finished with the highly anticipated Suzuki Jimny five-door.
The Jimny has become a cult classic from the first day on the market and it has been delivered to over 20 000 owners in South Africa since 2008. It is loved both by city slickers for its diminutive size and manoeuvrability and by overlanders for its unmatched off-road capability and the specialised new AllGrip system that offers several electronic and mechanical assistance systems for those who live life in low range.
There were even more new cars to talk about, although some are still some way off in the distance.
The first of these is the eVX, a compact and striking new all-electric SUV. The model was shown in concept form at the Auto Expo 2023 in India in January and late this year it joined a concept version of the new Suzuki Swift at the Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo, Japan.
Speaking of the concept Swift, this new model was the star of the Japan Mobility Show in November. It showed a fresh new design with cues from the current Swift model. It also showcased a number of very advanced new technologies, such as an adaptive high-beam headlamp system and a new driver monitoring system.
“We are very excited about the new model and will share more information about its launch in South Africa as soon as it becomes available,” says Carpenter.
While the new Suzuki Swift is still some way off, there is no stopping the current Suzuki Swift.
The Swift is not only the top-selling vehicle in the Suzuki line-up, but it is one of the best-selling passenger vehicles in South Africa.
The Swift and other popular models have helped Suzuki set several new sales records and maintain its position as the third best-selling vehicle brand in South Africa with a passenger vehicle market share that is nearing 15% of the market.
In February for instance, Suzuki sold 4 309 vehicles. This not only gave Suzuki a passenger vehicle market share close to 14%, but it also made their dealer network the second best performing dealer network of any brand in the country. It has repeated this achievement several times this year.
In March, Suzuki followed up their stellar February performance with an all-time record of 49 863 vehicles sold in one financial year.
In August, the brand celebrated its 200 000th buyer, while also recording a near-record 4 361 sales for the preceding July sales month. To put this in perspective, Suzuki sold their 50 000th unit in August 2017, just over nine years after selling their first model. Their last 50 000 units, which pushed the brand past 200 000 units, took just over 12 months.
The dealers again took centre stage in October, when it set a new sales record only to break that in November with a record sales number of 3 947 units.
Suzuki believes that successful dealer sales are synonymous with happy customers that are referring friends and family.
Suzuki Auto’s performance was regularly recognised by the industry.
For instance, the brand’s entry-level Swift and Celerio are both in the running for the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards prize for the best entry-level hatch. It has won this award several times in the past.
Suzuki is also nominated for the Best Budget Hatch with its Baleno and for the top Entry-level Crossover for its new Grand Vitara.
The brand was also a top performer at the naamsa Accelerator Awards. These awards consider outright sales and customer satisfaction to select the best cars, dealers and brands in South Africa. At these awards, which were held in October this year, Suzuki won the award as the Biggest Achiever of the Year for the Suzuki Baleno.
Suzuki also won the category for the Top Imported Vehicle of the Year for its ultra-popular Swift and Suzuki Bassonia was picked as the best-performing dealer.
Records and celebrations in Clarens
Shortly after winning these awards, Suzuki and its many Jimny owners travelled en masse to the sleepy town of Clarens in the Northen Free State for the Suzuki Jimny Gathering and the Suzuki Safari Town Music Festival.
For a magical weekend, Suzuki entertained owners and fans of the brand with a star-studded music festival and food and drinks galore.
It also broke a Guinness World Record by getting 787 Jimny owners to switch on their headlamps at the same time. The record was verified by an official representative of the Guiness World Records that attended the festival and it put the Jimny and its South African fans in the record books.
King of the Hill!
Any reflection on the past year’s success is not complete without remembering how Suzuki ruled the roost at the famous Simola Hillclimb in Knysna.
Suzuki entered three of its hot hatches in class A1 for turbo-charged production vehicles with two-wheel drive. It also joined as a main sponsor of the event, thereby ensuring the successful hosting of the first event to welcome spectators after the pandemic.
At the end of the weekend, the Swift Sport driven by Wesley Greybe ended on the podium in second place behind a Porsche and well ahead of other high-performance vehicles. Two of the Swift Sports competed in the final shootout, with the second being driven by Sudhir Matai.
“As we reflect on the past year, we are very grateful for the support from South African customers. They have not only chosen Suzuki in greater numbers than ever before, but they have joined us at public events and celebrations to show their support of the brand. We look forward to having another great year in 2024!” says Carpenter.