QotW: What should Suzuki USA have done differently?

Alas, Suzuki, we hardly knew ye. This statement rings especially true in the wake of the Suzuki’s departure from US shores last week, because as JNC reader Tyler pointed out, many of their best cars were not sold here under the Suzuki name. That’s why this week we ask:

What should Suzuki USA have done differently?

We opine that Suzuki should have imported their Alto Works RS-X to America. What’s not to love about a turbocharged, twin-cam, all-wheel-drive pocket rocket with an astounding output of 118 horsepower per liter? To be fair, that’s the specific output if you actually had a full liter, and the kei car actually had only .543 liters. Still, that’s 64 angry ponies in a package weighing 1345 pounds. Would it have changed Suzuki’s fortunes? Probably not one iota, but  damn it would’ve been fun.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining or inspiring comment by next Monday will receive a random toy. Click through to see the winner from last week’s question, “What music do you listen to when driving your nostalgic?” 

The winner this week is 84hachi, who offered a whole collection of tunes to transport you back to the 1980s Nihon, including our selection above. YMO was one of the few Japanese bands to break through to the West in the late 70s, and widely regarded, along with Kraftwerk,  as one of the most influential electronic bands of all time.

When I drive my ’84 AE86. I listen to the music that was popular in Japan at the time that car was made. P-Model, Rebecca, Mikuki Nakajima, Luna Sea, YMO, The Borems, Little Creatures, Mari Hamada, yes even Shonen Knife.

I would go to one of my little hideaway roads. Put on some P-Model (2D or Not 2D and Chevron are the best) and instantly get transported back in time to 80s Japan. Through my eyes I see period correct FCs, Cressidas, Skylines, etc. In the fall on a local mountain road Wait for the Winter Season by Miyuki Nakajima would change the scene yet again to a Japan feeling.

80s Japanese music, being played in an 80s Japanese car turns the world around you into Japan in the 1980s. I would do anything to travel back to see it with my own two eyes. But, since I can’t, what I can do is live it through the the speakers of my car.

Omedetou! Your prize from the JNC gashapon is an Toyota oozing with 80s design, a Konami Toyota Celica ST165.



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30 Responses to QotW: What should Suzuki USA have done differently?

  1. Alex says:

    I would have thought it was obvious that they should have sold the Swift in the USA.

  2. Wade Nelson says:

    There’s enormous appeal in pocket rockets. Witness the Toyota MR-2 and the Corolla FX-16. Small and underpowered, you’ve got to WORK that gearbox. And you can have a blast doing 0-45 instead of the 145mph you have to take a Corvette to to get to ITS limits. Not only that the entry level is affordable to the masses of us who love fun cars. Look at the GTO — an awful Tempest, boosted with a 389 motor. The WRX — a crappy Impreza with a turbo motor stuffed in. The RSX would have been an instant hit in America. Too much corporate and groupthink and not enough John Z. Deloreans out there. Suzuki coulda been a contender…

  3. jivecom says:

    should have given us the Swift

  4. Jason says:

    Suzuki made a host of mistakes, the biggest of which are:

    – Too few dealers: Suzuki barely had enough dealers to hit the 330 or so standard marketing areas in the US, and that was in 2010. This year the number of dealers had fallen even more.

    – Product, product, product: The Kizashi is awesome, but combined with a rebadged pickup, mediocre SUV, and a cute little SX4 you have a pretty boring line-up. They’re at least 3 models short of being sustainable.

    – Failure to team up: Mazda and Subaru have thrived by teaming up with rivals to reduce costs. Suzuki’s tie-ups always seemed to be about increasing Suzuki’s product line rather than leveraging some good design/development work for profit.

    – The strong Yen: By far the biggest cause of Suzuki’s failure, positive currency exchange rates that once made Japanese automakers billions are now killing profit margins on imports. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan are scrambling to produce North American market vehicles in North America, as the exchange rate losses are outrageous. Suzuki couldn’t justify manufacturing in the USA, so they folded up the tent.

    I think Suzuki should have worked harder to team-up with Mitsu, Nissan, Subaru, Honda, Mazda, or Toyota. Any one of these automakers would have been interested in sharing some products in what is an increasingly difficult market.

    • bert says:

      Look up Suzuki’s Wikipedia page, and you’ll see that they teamed up like crazy! Building cars for everyone else, while their own brand suffered.

  5. bert says:

    Suzuki was doomed as soon as the cross-breeding started! They should have spent their resources pushing their own wheels instead of building cars for American automakers who are to lazy to do it themselves! General Motors has a long history of screwing foreign automakers with hopes of making it big in America. They promise a partnership that will open doors for them to build their businesses, but then ditch them when things go screwey. But they will not develop and build the smaller cars people are craving right now, that they see are “beneath” American automakers. Suzuki had such a partnership with GM, building rebadged Swift’s, Sidekicks, etc. But GM never gave them full support, and when the market moved on to other things, left Suzuki with no backing to fully, competetively bring it’s vehicles (which are actually quite good!) to market. And now the tables have turned, and Suzuki was stuck trying to make it in America selling an awesome four door no one seemed to want, and a rebadged Nissan Frontier!? For shame. The Kizashi was a pretty cool car, owners of the SX4 that I have spoken to absolutely love them, and the Sidekick/Tracker combo was quite a riot to drive! Consumer Reports ruined it for the Samurai (that’s a different beef) but it was an incredible off road machine. If Suzuki had spent more effort on themselves, and these cool machines, the story would be different! But they didn’t.

    • bert says:

      Look up what GM did to Toyota, Isuzu, and is doing right now with Daiwoo, if you you have questions!

      • Speedcat says:

        It is obvious… They didn’t advertise any of their cars. The last advert I saw as when the BMW mini cooper came out and the SX4 was the competitor. Remember? The car didn’t come with the cape 😛

  6. Travis says:

    They should have sold the cappuccino and swift sport in the US

  7. mister k says:

    suzuki should’ve done exactly the opposite of what they did

    mitsubishi take note ’cause you’re next…

  8. Nate says:

    The first vehicle that comes to mind for most people when you say Suzuki, is the Samurai. It was a neat little 4X4 with Jeep Wrangler type qualities for a fraction of the cost. Then came the beginning of the end…the Geo Tracker and Metro project also known as the Sidekick and the Swift (RIP GTI). At the end of this project, they needed something to reassert their hold of the fragile little piece of the American small car market, but ended up tooling around in obscurity for years with failed outlandish compact SUV’s like the X-90 and the Vehicross, while their small cars suffered with models like the Esteem and Aerio. What would’ve got them really going here in my humble opinion would’ve been the Capuccino. A small, relatively cheap 2 seater droptop that’s fun to drive. Granted crash test standards here would’ve probably killed it eventually, but they could’ve drawn more passenger car customers in and had a better chance of selling cool cars like the Kizashi.

  9. Joseph R. says:

    I think they should have given the US all of their sporty cars. Swift and other various auto they had to offer.

  10. Aly says:

    That’s a simple one – they shouldn’t have let GM convince them into selling Daewoos.

    Given that the inexcusable, hateful Forenza and the Verona were what shaped many buyers’ experiences in the USA I’m not surprised they went bust. Those cars were poor at everything, built excessively cheaply, and had the handling qualities of whipped cream.

    If Americans actually knew the build quality and handling of actual Suzukis, I am sure the company wouldn’t have met its fateful end.

    Call me a cynic, but I have a suspicion that GM wanted to kill off Suzuki USA.
    Well, at least we can feel better that the bad reputation has carried over to Chevrolet…

  11. ProTree says:

    As a car manufacturer in the US they are known for building captive imports, but in the motorcycle industry they are a force. They should’ve looked at that and focused on what they do really good and build an image on that and that is the small car market.

  12. cesariojpn says:

    They should’ve gotten a bit more aggressive and sued Consumer Reports to the ground with their “testing” of the Samurai instead of coming to a mutual agreement. One little adverb ruined whatever chances Suzuki had in the US market and the further importation of cars because of it. It’s testing by bias sources that has put America at a disadvantage when it comes to getting cool cars and cars that are practical, but are hung up by some minor stupid safety regulation.

  13. RdS says:

    eeee..! Alto Works RS/X..! <3

    In all seriousness, In recent years it would have to be the Swift. It's been a popular car for a Suzuki elsewhere in the world..

  14. max says:

    This opinion is based off about 20 seconds of Google research, but I think that they could have found more success if they’d continued development of the Samurai platform. In the SW USA in particular, 4×4 culture is huge. People love the Samurai because it’s such a capable platform (albeit a little tipsy-happy.)

    IMO I think that if the Samurai was put through the paces that other successful 4×4 platforms were put through (Baja 1000, Dakar, etc), that they could have expanded upon the versatility of the platform. Instead, they have focused their efforts on sending bikes through these paces.

    Racing breeds recognition. Success in racing will lead to success in sales. They had a strong victory in Pike’s peak with the Vitara, and then subsequently with the Monster, but that still wasn’t enough.

    An old financial adage comes to mind here: “You gotta diversify your assets.” Suzuki should have diversified their auto racing program. Simple enough.

  15. ACSK says:

    I agree with people about the Swift, but if I could have changed just one thing I would’ve ramped up marketing and advertising. It’s like they had some alright cars, but they never bothered to tell anyone about them.

  16. socarboy99 says:

    Great cars…bad management here in the USA. They should have brought over the Swift GTI a few years ago. With ASMC going down and several other marques like Pontiac, Mercury, and Saturn in the last few years prompted me to do this short video on orphan cars and a funeral for the dead brands


  17. Pete240z says:

    First Suzuki and now Hostess? We might be heading to the next depression….


    • mofri says:

      They still make the Samurai its called the Jimny in the rest of the world.

      The biggest problem that happen in the last ten years was they started putting bigger engines in the cars for the American market because of idiotic magazine reviews report slow 0-60 times. So instead of getting something like a low end Suzuki an Aerio with a 1.6l that got awesome MPG, America got a low end Aerio with a 2.4L! so the MPG dropped and there were no other redeeming qualities.

  19. tim-e says:

    They should have embraced the fact that they were really a niche marque. They seemed hell bent on doing whatever it took to create a full lineup of cheap bland sedans and uninspiring SUVs with disastrous results. When they did have a potential hit, Kizashi, they didn’t capitalize – why no turbo? It would have served them much better to be quirky, fun and cool. After all, it is much, much better to have small group of evangelically devoted owners than a small group of owners who bought their cars because they were cheap.

  20. CMB says:

    Late to the party but don’t make it here to often – My father just bought a top of the line Kizashi – and it’s an amazingly nice car…with no performance substance. For how sporty it looks it needs a drivetrain to match to appeal to US customers – look at what Subaru did with the WRX and turbo motors in other models – if Suzuki had garnered attention with a high-performance model I think they could have done a better job establishing a market for their cars…

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