Suzuki Australia has taken the extraordinary measure of axing its most popular model.
No, not the Jimny – that may be the most in-demand vehicle the brand sells – but the dumped star in question is the Baleno city car, which has been one of the best-selling vehicles in the brand’s range for years, and in 2022 has been Suzuki’s most popular car, accounting for more than 38.5 per cent of sales to the end of July, with 5028 units sold.
So, why on earth would the brand make such a decision? And particularly considering there’s a facelifted Baleno that has just been launched in other markets.
Michael Pachota, Suzuki Australia general manager, told CarsGuide that the brand will not launch the facelifted model, because the India-built car no longer meets customer expectations.
“The Baleno that was released in India earlier this year was intentionally designed purpose to cater for those Asian markets,” he said. “The specifications, at least for the Indian market, probably wouldn’t meet the standard necessary for the Australian introduction for a new model in 2023. So that being the case, we decided to channel everything into Swift for the light segment.”
Mr Pachota explained the Baleno has filled a gap for the brand in recent years, mainly because the previous sales-leader, Swift, had been hard to secure supply of. Baleno, sourced from India, had a more readily available throughput, while the Japanese-built Swift had been harder to procure.
“Especially with Swift now improving in our supply – Japanese product was heavily impacted. Specifically that product line since 2017,” he said.
“That’s why we channelled everything towards Baleno since about mid-2018, 2019 onwards. So now that Swift is going to be more plentiful moving into the second half of 2022, Baleno will take a back step. In fact we sold so well with that car, we’re actually running out faster than we thought we would,.
As such, there are just a few hundred examples of the Baleno remaining in stock in Australia.
“We created a kind of ‘final lap’ model, which is called the Shadow Series,” said Mr Pachota, stating there are 300 examples only in white or silver that will see the addition of a few key extras to see the Baleno through its runout period.
However, Mr Pachota also said Shadow Series will roll out to the rest of the product range, with the changes essentially boiling down to a ‘black pack’ with accessories, wheels, body kits, decals and more.
Mr Pachota said the company was fortunate to have a situation where it could offer two different types of light hatchback for customers at relatively close price points, though he admitted the brand needs to remain competitive at the entry point to the market. Baleno had a starting price of $18,490 plus on-road costs, while the Swift range kicks off above $20k (GL Navigator manual at $20,490 plus on-road costs).
That leaves just the Suzuki Ignis under twenty grand – something that could be a serious problem for a brand that Mr Pachota himself describes as a “small car and affordable car specialist”. The base Ignis GL manual is $19,490 plus on-road costs.
Mr Pachota said the current Swift will fill the gap left by Baleno, before the next-generation Swift takes things to a different level for the brand when it launches in 2024.