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Japanese emerging Suzuki ousts its giant Toyota…



Toyota and VW used to dominate the South African auto market in general that I often don’t even bother looking at the numbers provided by the National Association of South African Automobile Manufacturers (NAMSA). Like the watch movement, Volkswagen, with its Polo Vivo and Polo, is usually at the top of the passenger car segment, and Toyota, with its trusted lineup of products, such as the Corolla Cross, Fortuner and Starlet, helped along with the best-selling Hilux bakkie dominate the overall numbers at Take light commercial vehicles into account.


Things changed dramatically during May when Naamsa numbers came in, revealing that for the first time ever, the domestic arm of the Japanese Suzuki brand took off, announcing massive sales of 4,250 passenger cars, surpassing Toyota by 252 units in the passenger car segment. .

While there are many reasons to praise Suzuki, it must be said that over the past couple of months Toyota has faced severe challenges since the KZN floods in April caused severe damage to the Prospecton plant in Durban, completely halting production of locally produced models such as the Corolla Cross and Quest Best seller.

The factory remains closed while extensive cleaning continues. This caused an unprecedented drought for Toyota in stock availability.

In fact, right now, there is such a shortage of locally produced Toyota Hilux items that some opportunistic dealerships have raised the price of a previously owned double-cabin Hilux that was close to a million rand. The new Hilux 2.8GD-6 Double Cab 4×4 Legend RS auto usually sells for R868,000. It reminds me a bit of the tobacco ban, when a pack of camels sold for 2,000 rand during a five-month tobacco drought in 2020. At least nicotine sticks have never been used before.

On the other hand, Suzuki Sa was left smiling. Not only did the more dedicated Japanese brand beat Toyota in May in the passenger car segment to take second place, 268 units behind best-selling Volkswagen (which posted 4,468 sales), Suzuki also managed to take the best-selling passenger mantle. The car is from the Germans, with the Swift selling 1,764 units, while the usual Volkswagen Raiders, the Polo Vivo, sold 1,179 straight Polo units, only managing 1,124 units.

Like Toyota, although unencumbered by catastrophic flood damage, VW’s Eastern Cape plant has its own challenges in terms of drying up its local Polo stock. Recently, the majority of products that come out of the lines of domestic factories have been urgently allocated for export. With a shortage of computer chips continuing to wreak havoc on the global auto industry, particularly the European market, and with a local Volkswagen plant having to service 185 export markets, South African polo fans have been left queuing for their new horses.

But in the brutal auto industry, the misfortunes of two companies represent the victory of another. And so all glory to the domestic arm of Suzuki. More popular than motorcycles, the Suzuki SA has been steadily and stealthly making its way to the charts since the Swift was first introduced domestically in 2008.

What is clear is that the current downturn in the economy, due to rising fuel prices, has forced customers to gravitate toward affordability, and with the product arriving directly from India, Suzuki has a lot more to offer at the budget end. There’s the S-Presso, which sold 783 units last month, Jimny (428) and Suzuki’s newest budget slot, Celerio, which only managed a somewhat disappointing 178 units in May.

But for now, stock is king and availability will determine how the next few months play out in the local industry. It’s all too good to come up with fancy marketing plans, launch expensive commercials and host expensive launches, but if the wheels aren’t available for customers to buy, that’s kind of a loser.

Japanese emerging Suzuki ousts rival giant in SA sales
New Toyota Starlet. (Photo: Toyota SA)

This week, the two Japanese manufacturers directed rifles with the simultaneous launch of the modified Starlet from Toyota and Suzuki Baleno. Both are budget hatchbacks produced in India and both are not only built on the exact same platform (which is a rarity in cars – think of the Audi R8 and Lambo Huracán) but these two cars actually Exactly the same cars – save A few different exterior styling queues and two completely different badges.

Since Toyota signed a deal in August 2019, in which Toyota acquired a 4.94% stake in Suzuki for $907 million, with the aim of expanding cooperation between the two companies, a number of product shares have been floated.

On the domestic front, besides the Starlet and Baleno being doppelgängers, Toyota’s Urban Cruiser and Suzuki Vitara Brezza are identical.

Toyota, with its trusted logo and expanded dealer network, won the sales mileage race, with the imported Starlet and Urban Cruiser largely outperforming the Baleno and Vitara Brezza. Last month, the Urban Cruiser sold 1,213 units. Brezza Suzuki made less than half of that, with 530 sales.

When it comes to Starlet numbers in 2021, Toyota SA sold 20,300 units, while Suzuki SA only managed to partner with 1500 Balenos. But despite Toyota’s dominance, the partnership also had its benefits for Suzuki. Prior to 2019, Baleno was selling less than 50 units per month, despite its popularity in other markets, with more than one million Balenos finding owners over the past six years.

While I sent my son to test drive a Baleno at the Suzuki launch party in Durban, I attended the unveiling of the Starlet in Cape Town.

The Starlet’s redesigned rear has sharper lines. (Photo: Toyota SA)

The Starlet was launched domestically in 2020, and has obviously been accepted by the locals, regularly making it one of the top five selling passenger cars in Naamsa. The 2022 Starlet has undergone some significant changes, with a complete redesign of the front and rear end. A new honeycomb grille, stronger shoulder lines and chrome accents work together to create a more modern vehicle.

But the big news is that both the Starlet and Baleno are improved in the power shares, with an updated 1.5-liter naturally aspirated engine, which is good at 77 kW and 138 Nm, (a much-needed increase of 9 kW and 8 Nm) . Both manufacturers offer a choice between a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic gearbox.

The Starlet has some good specs across the trim range, but the flagship XR features two additional speakers, HD reverse camera, cruise control, push-button start/stop, auto-folding side mirrors, TFT color multi-information display, leather-wrapped steering wheel ( Now with adjustable reach) and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

Both Starlet and Baleno are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Photo: Toyota SA)

The top-level GLX Baleno specs have a long list of standard prices, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, also available on the Starlet, and a trio of USB ports (two in the front and one in the rear).

While the Baleno and Starlet aren’t aimed at younger racers, they are honest, good-spec and affordable cars, nestled in the budget slot division A and B, depending on trim level.

The big question Toyota SA asked at its recent media launch in Cape Town was pricing and inventory. The company reassured the press that there are plenty of starlets available. Meanwhile, in Durban, basking in its recent successes, Suzuki has been upbeat about its plans to expand market share while the Toyota Prospecton plant continues its cleanup.

While the Starlet and Baleno came with excellent pricing on the entry-level trim lines, Suzuki was able to cut out its competition with the R17K on top of the GLX. But when it comes to resale value, a Toyota badge will likely hold its value higher than a Suzuki. What remains is to find out if customers want to be seen across town in Starlet or Baleno.


Toyota Starlet

1.5 Xi Manual – R226200
1.5 Xs Manual – R239100
1.5 Xs Automatic – R261100
1.5 XR Manual – R294,900
1.5 XR Automatic – R313300

Standard across the range is a three-year/100,000 km warranty plus a three-service/45,000 km service plan.

Suzuki Baleno

1.5 GL Manual – R225900
1.4 GL AT – 245900 Rand
1.5 GLX – R275,900
1.5 GLX AT – 295900

Standard across the range is a five-year/200,000-kilometre warranty plus a four-year/200,000-kilometre service plan. DM


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