March 2, 2011
At this year’s Geneva Auto Show, there’s little at the Suzuki booth that we’d be able to recognize in the States. The European lineup includes, of course, the evergreen SX4 and newish Kizashi. But Suzuki in Europe continues to offer a product lineup representing a bridge between what Japan, Inc. does extremely well and what Europeans enjoy owning and driving. Enter the Suzuki Swift S-Concept.
The global Swift, still fresh from a recent redesign, is provided a more expressive skin in the guise of the Swift S-Concept. A performance take on the cooking version is nothing new for Suzuki, although the performance mods – with the exception of the occasional ‘GT’ nomenclature – rarely make it to Suzuki’s automotive showrooms. The S-Concept credibly speaks to Suzuki’s World Rally experience, where the Swift won frequently at the junior level. Suzuki Auto’s reality, however, is more accurately reflected by the new Kizashi – positioned as a ‘sport’ sedan – introduced to global markets with a horsepower curve well shy of 200.
Suzuki’s American execs were watching the announcement from the company’s headquarters in Brea, California. There, Jeff Holland, American Suzuki’s Director of Public Relations, spoke to the Geneva reveal: "We’re confident that a vehicle similar to the Swift S-Concept would be very well received here in the States, especially among the 18-34 set, which is the demographic the Swift concept speaks to. A premium, performance-based vehicle like this would be a show-stopper here in North America, but we will await the consumer response to the car in Geneva."
Mr. Holland’s observation, a more expansive way of saying "we don’t talk about future product," does allude to American Suzuki’s strong desire to have the Swift in its product portfolio. And while the yen/dollar ratio probably disallows any U.S. Swift as a price leader, it would have real potential as a hot hatch with – as has been suggested in other reporting – all-wheel drive.
Finally, we’d note that "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong," recently seen on a bumper sticker at Suzuki’s U.S. headquarters.
DAVID BOLDT began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journalism in 1993. David has written for a variety of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.