Locally, Suzuki has been forced to celebrate its 100th anniversary with a shot of virtual S-Presso.
The South African media launch for the Japanese automaker’s new budget car was canceled at the last minute following measures set by the government to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The launch in the Western Cape, penned-in for this week, was called off as Suzuki’s centennial celebrations kicked off in Japan.
The Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company was founded by Michio Suzuki on 15 March 1920, and, since then, the company has expanded its business from looms to motorcycles, automobiles, outboard motors, and ATV’s - adapting to the trend of the times in domestic and global markets.
After changing its name to Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. in 1954, Suzuki launched the Suzulight, the first mass-produced Keijidosha ('light car') vehicle in Japan. The company name was then changed to Suzuki Motor Corporation in 1990, given its business expansion and globalization.
Image: Suzuki Media
Not an easy journey
The journey of hundred years was never easy, and the company had to overcome many crises since its foundation. Yet, Suzuki has grown to a company with many fans across the globe, and even today, its unchanging spirit of small car manufacturing - as represented by the new S-Presso - is unwavering.
In their messages to celebrate the centennial, director and chairman, Osamu Suzuki, and director and president, Toshihiro Suzuki, said members of Suzuki Motor Corporation must take this as an important milestone to reaffirm the founder’s philosophy of 'focusing on customers.'
The manufacturer first entered the local market with motorcycles, but the first Suzuki vehicles were available from the early 1980s with the arrival in 1983 of the ST-90 Carry minitruck and the SJ410 Suzuki Samurai.
As part of General Motors, the brand was first distributed under the Delta Motors umbrella (along with Opel and Isuzu), but in 2004 the GM agreement was terminated, leading to a gap of four years when Suzuki was unavailable here.
However, Suzuki Global (Japan) recognised South Africa as a good entry-point into the African automotive market and, in 2007, decided to establish Suzuki Auto South Africa (SASA) as a direct subsidiary (100% ownership) with its head office in Johannesburg.
Image: Suzuki Media
Independently in SA
From the onset, Suzuki Auto South Africa aimed to establish a strong dealer base that would be in it for the long haul. The first 12 Suzuki dealerships were opened on 1 February 2008, and initially, only two models were offered: the evergreen Suzuki Swift and the SX4.
The first car sold in this new era of Suzuki was an SX4 in June 2008. By September 2008, the dealer network was increased to 15 dealerships, and two more models were introduced – the Jimny and Grand Vitara.
Today, SASA is one of Suzuki’s 14 major sales subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide with a rapidly expanding dealer network and product range. It has started 2020 with a new all-time sales record, selling 1 632 vehicles through its dealer channel and to fleet customers, according to the official figures from the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Naamsa).
André Venter, divisional manager for sales and marketing for Suzuki Auto South Africa, said that this represents growth of 58.7% over the past year, compared to January 2019. This is set to continue with the launch of the affordable new S-Presso - incidentally, the first indigenously developed, conceived, and designed vehicle by Maruti Suzuki in India. (The Vitara Brezza compact SUV was partially designed and developed there).
With a starting price of R134 900, the new S-Presso with its Mahindra-esque grille, is now South Africa’s cheapest car, some R10 000 less expensive than the Renault Kwid and the Suzuki Celerio. And more than R27 000 affordable than the entry-level Datsun Go model.