Suzuki Auto's intial response did notprovide an answer to thequestion concerning the reliability of the Grand Vitara since its head of aftersales was out of the country. It is included below.
1. Suzuki's passenger cars have come back to South Africa at a bad time for the whole motor industry. In a market where vehicle sales are showing a definite downward trend, how long are you prepared to sustain these conditions? As a "newcomer", there are also serious concerns about your ability to support these new vehicles and have parts at hand for both new and older Suzukis.
Suzuki Auto South Africa (SASA) remains positive about future growth in the South African automotive market, despite the recent downturn in market conditions.
SASA and Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) of Japan are fully committed to the South African market and would not have made such substantial investments in this market if we were not confident about our long-term prospects.
As a majority-owned subsidiary of SMC, Suzuki Auto SA epitomises an entirely new era for the brand locally. The local operation will be an integral part of the vast and vibrant SMC global network from the outset.
The SASA permanent head office is centrally located in the Linbro Business Park in Marlboro, Sandton, and includes a dedicated training centre and extensive parts warehousing facilities. This gives credence to the company's long-term commitment to the country, and its belief in the SA market's valuable role in its international growth strategy.
The spare parts supply for vehicles that are (and were) distributed officially in the South African market is guaranteed: SASA has a spare parts warehouse in Johannesburg with more than 45 520 items on stock.
Whenever the Suzuki dealer wishes to place his order, he can check whether the part is available in the central warehouse. SASA offers a 24-hour delivery service to the dealers. Dealers also have access to an electronic parts catalogue that covers all Suzuki models worldwide.
2. There are very few visible signs of dealerships - how many are there and where are they?
SASA indicated from the word go that we will establish our dealer network on the basis of sound business and economic reasons and that (initially) we will be opening dealers in all the major metropolitan centres of South Africa.
Currently, 19 dealers are operational with another five planned to come on line before the end of this year. It is our stated objective to establish a total of 30 to 35 dealers by 2012. Currently, dealerships can be found in these areas :-
Gauteng -- Johannesburg South, Fourways, Bryanston, Germiston, Bramley, Auckland Park
Tswane -- Midrand, Pretoria Central, Centurion, Hatfield, Montana
Kzn/Natal -- Umhlanga, Pietermaritzburg
Mpumalanga -- Witbank, Nelspruit
Eastern Cape -- East London
Western Cape -- Helderberg, Parow
Limpopo Province -- Polokwane
Other prime areas under consideration for this year -- Pinetown, Boksburg, Claremont (Western Cape) and Bloemfontein.
3. Compared with their rivals, the SX4 and Swift are markedly better priced - what has Suzuki Auto done to make this pricing possible? What brand identity is Suzuki hoping to establish for its passenger vehicles?
At our launch at the beginning of June we stated that "Ultimately, our customers will see Suzuki as a selective brand that offers the highest value proposition in the market. They will associate Suzuki with affordable, aspirational, exciting and reliable motoring, while offering high levels of performance, exceptional quality and excellent resale value."
Suzuki Motor Corporation is a significant player in the global automotive industry, designing and manufacturing passenger cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, outboard motors, and various associated products.
SMC is represented in 192 countries, with its main production facilities located in 23 countries around the world, thereby giving Suzuki a truly international presence and flavour. The global competitiveness of the organisation is reinforced through technical co-operation and strategic joint ventures with various automotive industry partners.
It is therefore through the achievement of economies of scale and production efficiencies across multiple product lines, that SMC can produce vehicles at very cost efficient levels resulting in huge benefit for end-users.
4. Will the Jimny be offered with four-wheel drive and a soft-top version when it goes on sale in South Africa soon? Do you have plans to introduce vehicles using more efficient powerplants? What turbodiesels are going to be introduced? Given the rising costs of fuel, will the Splash make it to South Africa?
The Suzuki Jimny will be launched in September with a 1.3 litre multi-valve engine featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and selective four-wheel drive.
At this stage only a three-door hardtop model will go on sale – international production of the soft-top version will come to an end at the end of 2008 and this option can therefore only be considered with the introduction of the next generation Suzuki Jimny.
Turbodiesel engines are currently being studied for the South African market and may, at some point in the future and depending on compatibility with local diesel fuel, be made available.
The Suzuki Jimny and Grand Vitara models will therefore not be launched with diesel engines in September.
The Suzuki Splash is not planned for the South African market – a more appropriate product will be introduced in the A-segment during the course of 2009.
5. Suzuki 4X4s have a great reputation for reliability, but the findings of a JD Power and Associates customer satisfaction survey announced recently in the UK found that while the Swift did quite well, the Grand Vitara was the worst 4X4 money can buy from a customer satisfaction - and specifically reliability - perspective. Why is that? Is it a good idea to launch a seemingly poor offering in a country where reliability is so crucial?
Firstly, the Grand Vitara model mentioned is an earlier generation vehicle that will not be introduced in South Africa and it does not, for example, feature modern technology like Variable Valve Timing (VVT) which our models will have.
Secondly, I suppose anyone can quote survey results for whatever purpose and in this particular instance it is worthwhile mentioning the results of the recently published “Which?Car” survey (see www.which.co.uk/cars for the full report).
This annual survey was sent to nearly half a million readers in January 2008 and from this was acquired data for 89 762 vehicles, making this the biggest and most detailed car survey in the United Kingdom.
Survey questions covered breakdowns (classed as something that leaves you unable to drive the car), faults (which required a visit to the dealer for remedial work) and niggles (less urgent breakages or failures).
A Brand Reliability Index (BRI) is then compiled using statistical analysis to group makes of vehicles into reliability brands – based on breakdowns, faults and niggles. The age of the vehicles in the sample is up to eight years old, so it is a good indicator of ‘whole-life’ reliability.
On the overall Brand Reliability Index, Suzuki grouped into the top ‘very good’ category and at 83% was only slightly behind the top-performing brand at 85%. Furthermore, Model Reliability Scores are also calculated for vehicles up to two years old. In the Off-Roader category the Suzuki Grand Vitara scored 89% compared to the top-performer in the category at 93% and way above the worst performer at 78%.
Further to this and at quite the opposite end of the globe, the authoritative Australian 4X4 magazine recently voted the Suzuki Grand Vitara ‘Best Compact SUV 2008’, while the Suzuki Grand Vitara also won its class in the gruelling 7 200 km 2008 Transsyberia Rallye held at the end of July. Surely a vehicle with reliability problems would not achieve such remarkable results? (I am sure that the owners of previous generation Vitaras and Grand Vitaras sold in South Africa will agree).
So in conclusion: the latest generation Suzuki Grand Vitara that will be introduced to the South African market in September is quite an exceptional vehicle that will offer outstanding value for money and reliability – a vehicle really worth waiting for! And, as many happy owners of SJ410s and other Suzuki 4x4 vehicles can attest, reliability is the one thing not to complain about on a Suzuki.