Suzuki Motor Corporation claims new initiatives for the European market from 2003 will further strengthen its position in the region and contribute to “substantial increases in sales and market share” throughout the next five years.

Leading the attack is the usual it’s-production-ready-but-we’ll-kid-you-it’s-a-concept approach, imaginatively titled ‘Concept-S’ – a Paris motor show preview of a new supermini model claimed to be specifically designed for the European market.

This so-called concept has a 1.6-litre engine, six-speed sequential gearbox and permanent four wheel drive and should go into production at Suzuki’s Hungarian plant in late 2004.

Considering that the current Swift supermini still made there is now 13 years old, the car surely can’t come soon enough – the larger, and rather odd-looking Liana introduced about a year ago is almost invisible on UK and European roads.

The Hungarian factory’s 100,000-unit capacity will also be doubled 2004.

Suzuki will also introduce diesel engine options for all 4×4 models during 2003, rather belatedly recognising the importance of the oil-burning option in Europe and the UK. To be fair, the company has previously bought-in diesel engines from Mazda, (to whom it in return sells rebadged minicars and tiny SUVs under an ‘OEM’ agreement in Japan) but their availability has been limited.

Diesel engines will become available in the Grand Vitara 3-door from spring 2003; for the Grand Vitara XL-7 by mid year and in the little Jimny – including the Spanish-built soft top by the end of the year.

Some European Grand Vitaras are, by the way, imported from Canada.

Suzuki International Europe GmbH was established earlier this year at Bensheim, Germany, close to Frankfurt. This organisation will implement various policies and plans for the brand in Europe, strengthening its overall presence in the European region where it is still mostly a bit player.

Initial distributor support operations include unified management of parts inventories, parts and accessories procurement for Europe and IT systems development but SIE plans to establish a major research and development centre to plan and design new products specifically for Europe.

Under the terms of the revised EU block exemption regulation, effective from 1 October, Suzuki opted for an exclusive distribution system believing that this is best for further developing good relations with distributors, dealers and customers.