We are in the 80s. After conquering a good part of the world, Suzuki wants to influence Europe and France. The new Jimny, SJ410 aims to appeal to enthusiasts of leisure and sports activities while continuing to cater to professionals.
Its engines are more powerful, it receives power steering, and even a five-speed manual gearbox. With its unique appearance, it has everything to be the king of beaches and mountains. But there is a big problem…
Europe imposes restrictions on Suzuki
At the time, Europe imposed import quotas on Japanese cars. Toyota, Nissan and Mazda are already established and there is no place for the new Japanese brand in France and Europe.
It is not possible then to land on European soil for Suzuki. The solution will come from Spain. Suzuki joined forces in 1985 with Spanish manufacturer Santana. Suzuki Jimny SJ becomes “Santana Samurai SJ410 and SJ413”.
It is manufactured in Santana in Spain, and is distributed by independent importer, Omnex Santana. These small, simple and robust 4X4s came to compete with the Fiat Panda 4X4 and Lada Niva and turned the off-road market upside down.
Light, accessible and reliable, the Santana has become indispensable in the mountains, the forest or by the sea.
1992, Europe continues
The year 1992 was a new beginning for Suzuki in France. Europe is moving forward, the European Union is replacing the EEC, the Maastricht Treaty is being prepared, and if the Euro is not yet there, we are already talking about the ECU, the common currency of Europe. For the car market too, things are changing.
First, manufacturers need to equip their new cars with catalytic converters, for environmental reasons. But above all, the import preference for Japanese cars is disappearing! A real opportunity for Suzuki, which will finally be able to show ambitions on European soil.
Limited but effective range
In the beginning, everything should be built, starting with the brand image. Santana Samuraï become Suzuki Samuraï and are supported by big brother Suzuki Vitara.
In France, the manufacturer can count on small 4×4 customers and a growing sales network. In addition to the thirty points of sale that were selling Santanas, the network is growing. At the same time as this commercial development, the manufacturer adjusts its industrial equipment.
With an entire continent to conquer, you must produce locally. This will be done by launching a new factory in Hungary, in Magyar. In the fall of 1992, the Suzuki range in France welcomed a city car for the first time.
Called Swift, it’s based on the Cultus model. It wasn’t very good or very effective, however it was laying the foundations for what would become, a few years later, the brand’s bestseller.
In the 90s, the Vitara sold very well and Suzuki customers could count on the reliability and weight of its models. But the brand doesn’t have a best seller, a car that can push Suzuki to the next level in France.
In 2004, the manufacturer launched its new Swift, which would make Suzuki a real competitor in France. The Swift quickly passed the 20,000 mark in annual sales to peak at 32,000 in 2007.
Customers now recognize Suzuki as the maker of small 4x4s but also as the maker of the iconic Swift, which has already sold 183,000 units in 30 years.
Humility, humility and closeness
Thirty years later, Suzuki is part of the French automotive scene. No less than 550,000 new Suzukis have been sold by Suzuki Automobile France since 1992 from sixteen different models: Across, Alto, Baleno, Celerio, Ignis, Jimny, Kizashi, Liana, S-Cross, Splash, Super-Carry, Swace, Swift. , Vitara, Wagon-R, XL7.
Suzuki has remained true to its DNA for three decades. A simple, common brand, close to its customers. The wisdom found in the way of communication, always full of politeness, but which does not prevent the brand from working with innovation.
Suzuki, the forerunner in the hybrid
From 2016, the Japanese manufacturer decided to stop Diesel. For several years now, Suzuki has been buying Diesel engines from FIAT. “Italian engines alone caused problems in after-sales. They undermined the brand’s excellent quality record,” said one dealer.
Suzuki stops buying Diesels and introduces its first SHVS hybrid technology in Swift and Baleno. A dangerous bet, when the French driver only swears by Diesel, which will prove to be the winner. In 2019, Suzuki France passed the model bar of annual sales of 30,000. Today, 213 French dealers sell the 100% hybrid Suzuki.