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Hybrids won‘t change Suzuki’s retail bias

The arrival of the S-Cross takes Suzuki’s full-hybrid offerings to four, the newcomer sitting alongside the Vitara Full hybrid – launched earlier in 2022 and which has since become the best-selling version of Suzuki’s signature SUV – and two rebadged Toyota models in the Across SUV and Swace family car.
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Suzuki S-Cross full hybrid

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21 October 2022

SUZUKI is not about to change its strong bias to retail sales over fleet and business, despite the arrival of potentially more business-friendly hybrid models to its range.

The Japanese brand has been promoting its range as ‘hybrid-only’ for some time, expanding mild-hybrid drivetrains across the line-up, and has now launched its second new full-hybrid model – the S-Cross Full Hybrid replaces mild-hybrid auto transmission versions of the SUV which were launched as part of the car’s renewal at the end of 2021.

The arrival of the S-Cross takes Suzuki’s full-hybrid offerings to four, the newcomer sitting alongside the Vitara Full hybrid – launched earlier in 2022 and which has since become the best-selling version of Suzuki’s signature SUV – and two rebadged Toyota models in the Across SUV and Swace family car.

However speaking to Business Motoring at the launch of the S-Cross Full Hybrid, Suzuki product and planning head Ed Norman said while the new hybrids make a difference to the brand’s business aspirations, the focus remains on retail sales.

“We set out on an aspiration a few years ago now to get to a 25 per cent mix fleet to retail including Motability, and that is still the intention,” Norman said. “We are slightly lower than that this year because production difficulties caused by the global semiconductor shortage have meant we’ve focused deliveries on our retail market, through the dealer network and through where we’ve had customer orders, as have a lot of brands.”

He added that the 25% will be achieved through a combination of Motability and sales through the dealer network. “We are not doing a lot of direct selling to the business market, most of our fleet sales are at dealer level, in areas such as the public sector which is quite relevant to the cars we offer”.

With an all-hybrid message across the range and both the brand’s SUVs now including full-hybrid models, Norman added that some enhanced marketing would be made towards the business market; “it’s not happening at present due to the supply restraints”.

Suzuki currently has a 1.2 per cent share of the UK car market, having dropped back slightly from 1.5 per cent but its sales matching the decline in the overall market. And according to Norman the figure does not reflect customer demand, which the supply-chain issues have affected; “If we’d been able to fulfil all the orders we have we could have had a two per cent market share.”

The supply issues have resulted in Suzuki needing to change its business model and the way in which it deals with customers; “We are not used to having a waiting list, as much as nine months in some cases. Dealers have had to learn new ways to ensure customers still get a good experience.”

Some changes in the retail/business balance could come from the arrival of more core electric products to the range, which Norman expects to happen by 2025. “With electric cars the normal route to market is a bit out of reach to normal Suzuki retail customers, but ways such as leasing or other types of rental arrangements are more realistic.

“Electric cars and being able to reach people through means of a monthly payment, a contract, go together – if you call that fleet then yes we will be doing it. But it will still be a focus on retail customers through the dealer network.”

 

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