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February 11, 2011

US: Suzuki appeals to younger buyers to boost sales

Suzuki is looking for growth in the US this year despite struggling for sales and battling the rising value of the yen vs the dollar.

Suzuki is looking for growth in the US this year despite struggling for sales and battling the rising value of the yen vs the dollar.

Executive vice president Koichi Suzuki said the company had “definitely built some momentum for 2011″.

Suzuki saw US sales drop 38% last year to just 23,994 vehicles, halving its market share to 0.2%, while total industry sales rose 11.1% as the market recovered from the 2009 downturn.

The company’s decline in sales has led to speculation that Suzuki will pull out of the US market, but executives said this is not the case.

The start of the new model year in October has seen something of a revival with sales getting a boost from the four-door Kizashi sedan, which is being re-positioned as a sporty, performance oriented alternative to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, said Suzuki America President Kinji Saito.

The company is also looking at adding vehicles to its relatively small US product line, but Saito added that no decisions had yet been made.

One vehicle under consideration is the compact Swift, which is built in Japan and India and engineered for markets around the world while the company is also considering adding an urban utility vehicle. Both would appeal to younger buyers, Saito said.

He added that Suzuki will place more emphasis on its all-wheel drive capabilities in its marketing. One new advertising campaign compares the Kizashi’s performance and agility to an Audi A4.

Suzuki is disadvantaged in the US against its Japanese rivals as it does not build any vehicles in the country and has been unable to raise prices sufficiently to account for the 20% appreciation of the yen.

The company reported earlier this week that its net profit nearly tripled in the April-December period as healthy sales in Asia offset the strength of the yen.

It posted a net profit of JPY42.6bn (US$518m) in the nine month period from JPY15.49bn in the same period a year earlier.

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