Suzuki Gives Its 2011 Kizashi a Sportier Look

As part of its efforts to boost sales and increase market share, Suzuki Motor Corporation will give its 2011 Kizashi compact sedan a face-lift. The company said the 2011 model will feature a number of interior upgrades a new front fascia and a slightly lower suspension. Suzuki said lowering the suspension by 10 millimeters, gives the redesigned Kizashi better, sportier handling characteristics.

Suzuki spokesman Jeff Holland said the redesign will only apply to the top GLS and SLS trim packages. In addition to new features, the trim levels themselves will be renamed Sport GLS and Sport SLS. The base SE model will be unchanged from the current model year.

The upgrades are far less exciting than what the automaker had planned for next year. Before divesting itself of its 20% interest in Suzuki in 2008, General Motors Company has agreed to provide a new optional hybrid powertrain and V-6 engine for the Kizashi as early as next year. With GM no longer in the picture, Suzuki’s 2011 Grand Vitara crossover will only be available with a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine instead of GM’s V-6. The four-cylinder delivers only 166 hp and a somewhat anemic 162 pounds-feet of torque.

With U.S. market share dwindling, Suzuki has announced that the SX4 SUV will get a new 2.0-liter 150 hp four-cylinder engine teamed with either a continuously variable or six-speed manual transmission. Suzuki also plans to lower the price on the SX4 Sportback by more than $1,000. The 2010 SX4 Sportback is priced at $17,999 plus shipping.

During the first half of the year, Suzuki’s U.S. sales fell by nearly half to only 11,549 units. Last year, Suzuki saw its sales fall by 54%.

Suzuki’s inability to compete has left many analysts bewildered. The automaker’s smaller, fuel-efficient models would seem perfectly suited to thrive in the current economic climate. After all, Fiat is betting heavily on the success of its new 500 small car and Ford has reintroduced its Fiesta small car to U.S. motorists who appear ready to embrace the models.

Some industry experts blame Suzuki’s limited model lineup, limited financing operations, ineffective marketing and inability to transfer the strength of its brand from other industry sectors.

As one dealer lamented in 2009, “People spend $6,000 on a Suzuki ATV, $12,000 on a Hayabusa (motorcycle) and $18,000 on a Suzuki outboard, but they question spending $21,000 on an XL-7.” In fact, sales of the XL-7 mid-size sedan were so disappointing that Suzuki discontinued the model in the fall of 2008.

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