Pak Suzuki since its inception is a market leader in small car, below 1000 cc, segment in Pakistan but not very successful in upper categories, although it tries its level best to capture the market of above 1000 cc but with little or in some cases no success. Before we move further let’s have a brief look about the history of Pak Suzuki.
Pak Suzuki was established in 1982 as a joint venture between the Government of Pakistan and Suzuki Motor Japan, formalizing the arrangement by which Awami Auto Ltd, a state owned company had produced the Suzuki SS80, having 360 cc two stroke, water cooled, rear engine car. This car was sold at a very attractive price of Rs 36,000. Pak Suzuki is the market leader in Pakistan Automobile market by having more than 60% of market.
Pak Suzuki so far has launched six cars in 1300 and above category, this we are talking about cars and not SUV or Jeeps, which is altogether different category. Margella, Baleno, Liana, Swift, Ciaz and Kizashi. All these cars except Swift were Sedan, and were directly competing with Honda City and Toyota Corolla, with the exception of Kizashi, which well too expensive to compete any car with a price tag of Rs. 5 million at the time of introduction.
The sedan shape of Suzuki Cultus second generation was initially (1990) imported from Japan to test the market and sold under the name Suzuki Sedan and came with a carburetted 3-cylinder 993 cc engine. The market reception was good though the audience complained of low power. The same car was considered for local manufacture as an entry level executive car. Manufacturing started in 1992 under the name Suzuki Margalla having 4-cylinder, 1300 cc carburetted engine. The car was offered in variants such GL and GLX, with an upgrade variant called Margalla Plus launched later on.
Production was ceased in 1998. Since at that time it was the only 1300 car manufactured in Pakistan and due to government of Pakistan ban on using above 1300 cc cars by government officials it was met with great success, and no doubt this car was also reliable.
But with the introduction of locally manufactured Toyota Corolla in 1993 the sale of Margella was drastically declined and to complete the market Suzuki launched Beleno, a bigger and better looking car in 1998 as a replacement of Suzuki Margalla, till 2006 when it was replaced by the Liana.When introduced, it featured a number of improvements over Margalla, such standard power steering, wider tyres, tachometer as standard, 4-spoke steering wheel vs. 2-spoke steering wheel of Margalla, black interior vs grey interior, EFi vs carburettor and 16-valve vs 8-valve engine.
Initial trim levels included GL, GXi, Gli and GliP (also known as Gli Plus). Baleno featured highly advanced technology at its time, as it was the first one to offer distributorless EFi. But as the mechanic did not have the knowledge of EFI engines due to its new technology and only Suzuki Authorised dealers have the mechanics that were capable to handle this engine, and since we do not have any technical institutions to give training on new technologies the car was not very successful. The same happened with Liana which was introduced in 2006, the car was no doubt good looking but again suffered with gearbox and engine issues as again mechanics were not geared up to handle the complicated EFi engine, and this leads to its poor resale value and the car was not as successful as it should have been. And finally in 2014 production stopped. To fill the gap Pak-Suzuki introduced Ciaz both manual and automatic as CBU but since it was expensive as compared to Toyota Corolla and Honda City and having badge of Suzuki it was not a success and Pak Suzuki was able to sell very small numbers of units. Smaller the number costlier to maintain as parts are expensive. If we analyse the buyer’s mentality in Pakistan reliability and resales value is number one issue in making the decision.
And in both these areas all these cars did not get the full marks, further the name of Suzuki is synonymous as entry level car. Kizashi was imported in 2015 and 2016 by Suzuki but due to its price, it badly failed and was far expensive for a Suzuki buyer and perhaps a bad decision on the part of Pak Suzuki to offer such an expensive car in Pakistani market. At present they have only one car in 1300 cc category ie Swift and due to its high consumption of fuel it is also not very successful, but those companies who are bound to give 1300 cc cars to their employees are buying it as it is the cheapest 1300 cc car in the market. But now with the introduction of Saga and Alsvin the fate of Swift is in doldrums and therefore the production ends by the end of this year.
It is prudent that Pak Suzuki should focus on up to 1000 cc car market and improve their quality as many new entrants are coming up in this category which will give tough competition to Pak Suzuki, like Picanto by KIA.