A Swift Comeback : A Chat with Suzuki's Kinji Saito

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Small and nimble – this is how Suzuki weathers the storm

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PHOTOS Krado Low

According to Mr. Kinji Saito, Executive General Manager of Suzuki Motor Corporation, "Suzuki is known to make value for money cars that are fun to drive, more than any other automaker." The Swift 1.0 Turbo has injected new life into the small hatchback segment, but what about the Swift Sport?

TopGear Singapore (TGS)How do u think the car will do? there has not been a cheap and cheerful car in this small and sporty segment since the Clio RS and Polo GTI... and those weren't cheap.

Kinji Saito (KS): In due time, the Suzuki Swift Sport will come to Singapore. We are working to introduce it in Singapore between September and October. Well, let me explain why: The Suzuki Swift Sport meant for the Japanese market has a wheel track of 1695mm due to Japan’s tax structure. However, we have developed the export model to have a wider track of 1735mm. This increase in track width also offers a more stable ride at high speeds for more fun!

TGS: What about the Jimny?

KS: It’s a surprise demand for us too as we are completely sold out of this model in Japan. We are working hard at introducing it as soon as possible around the world. This is the car that has a good variety of choices, which will convince customers that Suzuki makes exciting cars.

TGS: How has Suzuki fared in Singapore, with just the Vitara on sale?

KS: Due to Singapore's unique market and homologation process, cars take a long time to be registered – sometimes approval takes so long that a model may become uncompetitive by the time it is allowed to be registered. However, with Suzuki moving to our new Boosterjet turbo, emissions have come down considerably and we hope to see a wider range of Suzukis in Singapore.

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TGS: What do you think are the big hurdles for Suzuki in Singapore?

KS: The Singapore market is very different from the rest of the world. Customers are particular about the size of the car. Singapore also has a very unique emission testing procedure – which adds to the costs for customers. That is not that beneficial for everyone, if I may...

TGS: Looking ahead, what sort of product strategy do you think will work for the Singapore market?

KS: Customers today are going digital. They’re even more sensitive to cars when it comes to quality, size and affordability compared to a few years ago. Still, we’ve discovered that customers still rank performance first – which is why we designed the suspension and engine for maximum performance. This will leave the customers with a positive impression and overall satisfaction.

TGS: Do you think people still appreciate hatchbacks today? We know we do, but some of us are in our 40s and grew up with the original Swift GTI...

KS: Hatchbacks are evergreen, even as crossovers gain popularity. They offer reasonably good utility and handling in an easy package. An example is a big SUV: It offers much more space but the drive is not enjoyable due to the handling. Sporty handling is still the hatchback’s forte.

TGS: Will we see a return of the Ciaz and Kizashi?

KS: The Ciaz is selling well elsewhere but we are forced to set a more realistic expectation for this market. That said, we are still very active in making fun sedans to meet the market demands!

Krado Low
Author: Krado Low
Always finding ways to keep his hands full, Krado loves to tinker with his car whenever he has the free time. Usually ends in tears or a multiple fluid facial.