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Swift Mover


Suzuki's Sales Superstar

Ask a Suzuki salesman how well the Swift hatchback is selling, and you’ll get a rapid response: “it’s huge.” It’s almost as if they’re reading from a prepared cue and response card.

They’re not, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re talking about new car sales, used car sales, or Japanese used import Swifts.

The little five-door is simply selling in phenomenal numbers, and there’s no sign of demand flagging. The car’s popularity continues to outstrip the supply, to such an extent that even rival franchise dealers are importing second-hand Swifts to plug the demand.

And Suzuki’s own dealers have been importing used examples so they can offer a price-leading version of the hot cakes hatchback, though that’s changing with Suzuki New Zealand adding an entry-level model, the XE, with a sticker price of $16,990.

There’s little remarkable about the Swift’s

Styling, or its performance and specification, but its looks have struck a chord with buyers worldwide, and virtually since its introduction it has been New Zealand’s best-selling small car.

The styling is cheeky and neat, with echoes of the BMW Mini about the windowline. In fact, that evocation of the new Mini is one of the Swift’s chief attractions – along with its competitive price.

Despite its monicker, the little Suzuki isn’t particularly swift; nor is it as sporty as its public image might suggest.

But it provides a fine basis for dressing up and Suzuki itself and aftermarket firms offer bodykits, stripe sets and wheel and tyre combos. The price helps here, too, and a used import can be optioned up with a body kit and wheels and tyres and still come out somewhere around $20,000.

Suzuki New Zealand marketing chief Tom Peck says around 6000 have been sold here as new cars since the model’s launch in 2005, and he estimates another 2500 have been sold as used imports.

“For imports under three years old, it was the most popular car last year.” Suzuki sold 2500 new Swifts last year, and expects to expand that to at least 3000 this year. “We’re totally limited by what we can get.”

Surprisingly, perhaps, he says the Swift was a relatively slow starter. “It took a little while to get going.” But once it did, sales have continued with unabated momentum.

The car’s success worldwide even caught the parent company by surprise. “They can’t build enough of them.”

Peck says the Swift appeals to an extremely broad range of customers and has sold to teenagers and to people over 75; and it has lowered the age of the average Suzuki buyer by at least 15 years. “The demographic for the car is late 30s to early 40s.”

The short supply of new cars has led to Suzuki’s own dealers importing used examples from Japan. In Auckland, the Perry group has been bringing them in – mostly 1300s – and in the Waikato, Wingers have been importing 1600s, though Wingers’ Paul Burborough says that he will now switch his entry-level model focus to the new XE.

Independent dealers have also brought them in in numbers, as have some Mitsubishi dealers, including Andrew Simms and Simon Lucas in Auckland.

Simms’ Andrew Busler says the company has imported Swifts in batches, alternating them with imported Mitsubishi Colts and Colt Pluses, and offering both with the one-third, one-third, one-third finance package that has made both model lines popular with younger buyers.

“The Swifts are a popular car and we’ve done well with them,” he says. “They’ve got a bit of a following. Sometimes we buy Colts, sometimes Swifts. We mix the stock up through the year.” The two cars appeal to similar buyers, Busler says. “We’re tapping into a market that’s there.” Mainstream Swifts sold new in New Zealand are all 1500s – even the XE – and the body-kitted Sport model is a 1600.

Used imports are predominantly 1300s, though there are some 1500s and 1600s among them. Used imports come in a wide range of specification, from a stripped-down base model to a higher-spec car than those marketed by Suzuki NZ – with features like folding exterior mirrors.

Suzuki NZ’s Peck says the Swift’s sales future here continues to look “very positive.” “I’m not sure what the ultimate potential for this car is.

“It just keeps surprising us each year. It’s been more popular than any other car we’ve ever had.”

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