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Suzuki aims for high gear in sales with bigger lineup, new showrooms

November 23, 2010
Suzuki plans to triple sales in the U.S. market by 2007 with the aid of nine new models in the next five years. Tom Carney, Suzuki's automotive marketing director, laid out the company's "357 Plan"-three times the sales in five years, by 2007-to the Midwest Automotive  Media Association this month. Suzuki sold 68,000 units in this country last year but intends to sell 200,000 annually by 2007. Sales have doubled since 1998. "We have the momentum behind us," Carney said. For dealers, Suzuki wants standardized showrooms. The company has retained the same designer that developed facilities for Ford and Mitsubishi dealerships and national discount retailer Target. Red pillars and a large red "S" above the doorway would guide customers to the new showrooms, Carney said. To help pay for the new design, he said Suzuki will offer dealers a $400 incentive on every car sold over three years. The country's 440 Suzuki dealers gathered last month in Las Vegas to consider the redesigned stores, and Carney said half already have signed on to the plan. Suzuki also hopes to grow its dealer body by 25 percent. The two newest Suzuki models debuted in February at the Chicago Auto Show. Sales begin in early 2004 for the Forenza, a premium compact car that will be priced from $12,000 to $15,000, and the Verona, a mid-size sedan that would retail for $16,000 to $19,000. With just two models sold now, Carney said Suzuki is a player in only 20 percent of the marketplace. He said that, following Forenza and Verona, the company will roll out a crossover vehicle, a station wagon, small and mid-size SUVs, a sport crossover, a sport sedan and a sport wagon. "The vehicles will be designed by Italians, engineered with the help of Germans, manufactured in Korea and sold in the United States," Carney said. An expanded lineup will increase the number of repeat Suzuki buyers, he added. "What else are they going to buy?" he said of the current stable. "They would graduate out of Suzuki. Now they'll have something new to move up to."