Suzuki Australia Eyes Return to Budget Car Dominance with Potential Kei Car Introduction

In a bid to reclaim its title as a leader in the budget car segment in Australia, Suzuki Australia is exploring the idea of introducing a kei car to replace the Baleno. This move could position Suzuki as the purveyor of the most affordable new car in the Australian market.

Historically, Suzuki has offered vehicles like the Alto and Celerio at competitive prices. However, recent years have seen a shift, with no models priced below $20,000. The discontinuation of the Baleno, once the brand’s most budget-friendly option at $18,490 + ORC, has left the Ignis ‘light SUV’, starting at $20,490 + ORC, as the most affordable option in Suzuki’s lineup.

Despite speculation about its discontinuation, Suzuki Australia will continue selling the Ignis in 2024. Additionally, plans are underway to introduce the Indian-made, Baleno-based Fronx coupe-style SUV. However, it is unlikely to be priced under $20,000, leaving a gap in the market.

Michael Pachota, General Manager of Suzuki Australia, acknowledges this gap, eyeing the potential for a Japanese-sourced kei car. Kei cars, a category unique to the Japanese domestic market (JDM), are the smallest highway-legal passenger cars, adhering to stringent size (3.40m long, 1.48m wide) and engine capacity (660cc) restrictions. Suzuki has a range of models in this category, including the Alto, Spacia, Xbee (Crossbee), Hustler, Every, Carry, and Wagon R, popular in the grey import market.

The Alto, in particular, has caught Mr. Pachota’s attention. Offered in Japan with two powertrains, both are priced assertively: the 2WD CVT petrol model at 1,064,800 yen (AUD $11,050) and a hybrid version at 1,218,800 yen (AUD $12,650).

“We’re getting so much closer to it,” Mr. Pachota stated. “They’re so spacey, the headroom and everything. I can really see a place in Australia for a kei car opportunity. So let me tell you — if Japan says, ‘we’ve got them, do you want them?’, then two hands up in the air — I want them all. One that really catches my eyes is the Alto, and as an offering in Japan, it’s such a great entry-level car that would – if you introduced it at a similar price or percentages based on their market versus our market – it would be a price leader in Australia, for the entry-level to the Australian car market,” he explained.

However, Mr. Pachota also emphasized the importance of meeting customer and safety expectations, including compliance with Australian Design Rules (ADRs).

Despite the discontinuation of the Baleno, Suzuki has seen growth in other models like the Swift, which is set to be replaced in 2024 with a new generation. “Swift grew by just 60 percent in sales for us, between the period of when we switched Baleno off to now, and I can see us increasing that even further into 2024 with current demand and enquiry that we’d have with the Swift product, which is great,” Mr. Pachota said. The Ignis also saw a 25 percent increase in sales.

As of November 2023, Suzuki Australia’s sales had dipped by 21.6 percent, with the Swift leading as the best-selling model with 6,486 units sold.

Other Japanese manufacturers, like Mitsubishi Motors, are also considering budget kei-car options, including the potential introduction of the EK X electric kei car.

Author

    by
  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

Leave a Comment