BRAZIL – Suzuki back and wanting to build locally

By just-auto.com editorial team | 24 October 2008

Suzuki has a strong image in Brazil and an even better one in Argentina.

So much so that the Chevrolet Celta (based on a previous-generation Opel Corsa) is rebadged Suzuki Fun in the neighbouring country which also builds the previous generation Grand Vitara, now exported to Brazil as the Chevrolet Tracker.

The Japanese brand started operations in Brazil as an importer in 1992 but packed up and left in March 2003 when the Brazilian real currency peaked. Now it is back with the new-generation Grand Vitara brought in from Japan and the Jimny expected to arrive early in 2009.

The automaker is coy on its plans. Before the economic crisis it was forecasting sales of 600 units monthly, possibly including the successful SX4 if Fiat allows (it shares the model with Suzuki in Europe).

Suzuki is handled by Grupo Souza Ramos (GSR), which imports, assembled and distributes Mitsubishi models such as the L200 and Triton pickups and the Pajero Sport SUV in Catalão, Goiás state.

Boss Eduardo Souza Ramos has signalled a clear intention to produce Suzukis in Brazil.

There are rumours are that Mitsubishi would take over importing and producing its vehicles in Brazil from GSR. The current importer's executive in charge of Suzuki, Alexandre Câmara, admission that a future Suzuki factory could be in Goiás state, but not in Catalão, has heightened industry gossip.

Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko, in Brazil last week, reiterated that trust in GSR remains unchanged, classifying it as a "treasure". Nevertheless, he confirmed plans to produce a high volume compact model for Brazil and did not reveal whether this would be done with the existing partnership or separately.

"The worldwide instability will affect Brazil less, it's a market with great growth potential," said Masuko. "I intend to come here at least once a year."

Fernando Calmon