Suzuki Says It Feels Your Pain

Economy Financing Dealer program


American Suzuki introduced five all-new models and updates to a handful of others for 2009. Suzuki executives, speaking to dealers at the OEM's business meeting early last month, said they understand the woes retailers are experiencing due to troubles in the economy, and said they're prepared on multiple fronts to help dealerships overcome those issues. Whether dealers believe the OEM is to be determined (see OEM Report Card starting "The OEM Report Card").

The OEM's plans for '09 include an all-new GSX-R1000; a 650cc V-twin-powered bike called the Gladius; a 1462cc power cruiser called the M90; a retro-looking air-cooled, fuel-injected unit called the TU250X; and a King Quad 500 with electronic power steering. The M90 ($9,999) started shipping in October and the King Quad 500AXi Power Steering ($7,599) is to be delivered in December. The Gladius ($6,499) is expected to show up at dealerships in February '09, and the GSX-R1000 (MSRP $12,199) and TU250X ($3,499) are to start shipping in March '09. Units not returning for the New Year include the RM 85L, RM 125, S83, SV650 and SV1000S.

Last year American Suzuki introduced 14 new or radically updated products but didn't deliver the product in the numbers promised. Why? Due to the down economy, the factory in Japan cut allocation. VP Mel Harris said the Suzuki factory in Japan "became conservative" in the past year, cutting shipments to protect against massive dealer inventories. The way ASMC sees it, failure to deliver left many of healthier dealers upset over the lack of products. But, using Suzuki corporate math, the "unhealthy" dealers who weren't able to move product because of the down economy should've ended the year with very few noncurrents left on the floor.

However, Suzuki leadership says selling units is not necessarily the only key to success, and that there are other avenues for dealers to try for improved earnings: the Suzuki Select certified pre-owned program, the higher-margin parts-and-accessories business, the training of sales staff in retail proficiency through the Suzuki Sales Educational Program, maintaining updated product knowledge through the online Suzuki Connect offering, aiding in the development of a successful operation through the Image for Success program, building a Web presence and holding events to grow brand loyalty.

In June, American Suzuki announced a plan to consolidate its independent business units — Automotive, Motorcycle/ATV and Marine, along with corporate operations — under a new president, Kinji Saito. Saito says his immediate plan is to understand what retailers need and want, and says he intends to visit stores throughout the country as part of his initial discovery process.

His comments were echoed at the dealer meeting in Las Vegas by Masaaki (Mac) Kato, president of American Suzuki's Motorcycle, ATV and Marine Operations: "We must make our customers happy, and you are our customers," Kato told dealers assembled for the event. "We are committed to work with you, to give you the assistance you need. The factory hears you, and we will be getting the product you need. Talk will lead to action."

Visit to read more about Suzuki's plan for the coming year, including our exclusive interview with Harris and information on more dealer programs. — Guido Ebert