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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Suzuki not at pains with Toyota over model “controversy”

"If one of the global market leaders have confidence in the product, it shows the quality a buyer can get from a Suzuki".

Suzuki Auto South Africa has rebuked speculation and rumours of apparent unhappiness with its partnership with Toyota, saying the decision points to confidence from the latter marque regarding the products it has selected to offer in South Africa originating from Maruti Suzuki in India.

The announcement from the local arm of the Hamamatsu marque comes on the back of a series of comments on social media and even backlash alleging Suzuki’s rebadging of the Urban Cruiser and Starlet for the Vitara Brezza and Baleno despite the latter pair acting as base for the Toyota version as part of a joint venture signed back in 2019.

Toyota Suzuki partnership

The Suzuki Vitara Brezza has been India’s best-selling new vehicle since 2016.

Aside from the models in question, a third Toyota model based on the Suzuki Ertiga is also expected at some stage with a fourth also being rumoured in the shape of the Toyota Belta, otherwise known as the Vios, which could be based on the Suzuki Ciaz instead of being the sedan version of the Yaris it has been in mainly Asian markets since 2005.

Despite expressing initial concern at the tie-up, Suzuki Brand Marketing Manager for South Africa, Brendon Carpenter, said a decision was taken that the partnership would expand the footprint of both marques and lead to better cooperation in the developing of new models and technology going forward.

Toyota Suzuki partnership

Toyota Urban Cruiser debuted in India last year as the restyled version of the Vitara Brezza.

“At first we were quite upset at the fact that these models were being considered for South African introduction through the Toyota brand and we were a bit concerned to be honest,” Carpenter said.

“However, we have taken a stance that if one of the global market leaders have confidence in the product to bring it in volume to South Africa and export markets, it shows the quality and trust a buyer can get from a Suzuki product.

Toyota Suzuki partnership

Suzuki Baleno after being revised last year

“From a global point of view, it is very beneficial to Suzuki. In a market like South Africa, if we are selling between say 50 to 70 Suzuki Balenos (per month) but also include to that say 500 Toyota Starlets, they are still coming out of the Suzuki factory. Suzuki is not giving them away for free”.

Despite admitting that the gains of the partnership are unlikely to be beneficial for Suzuki immediately, Carpenter added that increased volumes in the future, together with lower costs, will rate as the ticket when both marques’ market shares are taken into consideration.

Toyota Suzuki partnership

The replacement for the Etios, the Toyota Starlet debuted in South Africa last year based on the Baleno after bowing as the Glanza in India two years ago.

“Increased volume reduces costs and if we share those volumes with Suzuki’s market share of over 50% in India with Toyota’s global market share in exports models as well, we will benefit from lower costs in the future.

“While we don’t have the upper hand (in terms of monthly sales over Toyota) at the moment, I think it is a stepping stone into the future to see where is Suzuki going,” he concluded.

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