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Suzuki: In a Recession, Weak Brands Are Exposed.

American Suzuki chairman Rick Suzuki will be stepping down from his post, according to a letter he sent employees and was reported in Automotive News, to “bear responsibility” for the automaker’s poor sales and earnings.”

Rick Suzuki, 60, is the grandson of Michio Suzuki, founder of Suzuki Motor Corp.

You have to admire a guy who lays it out that way, and takes the blame. I don’t recall Dieter Zetsche making any similar pronouncements. Bill Ford, to his credit, admitted when he handed over the CEO job at Ford to Alan Mulally that he didn’t have the skill-set to navigate the crisis Ford was in. Ever hear a GM CEO simply bow out and say, “because I screwed up.”?

Granted, Mr. Suzuki can go back to Japan and ride out his days on the family fortune, so I’m not sure what penalty he will endure. But the honesty and accountability is refreshing.

In 2003 the company announced a five-year plan to attain sales of 200,000 automobiles and 300,000 motorcycles/ATVs,” the letter said. ” The five-year plan ended far from its goals, with sales of only 100,000 automobiles and 190,000 motorcycles/ATVs.”

As far as cars go, Suzuki has been a company that didn’t seem to be in the auto market with both feet. It has sold some totally forgettable passenger cars (the Swift and Verona). And it’s SUVs have ranged from silly (The Samurai) to marginally interesting (the XL-7).The Samurai burst on the scene in the late 1980s, only to be subsequently deeped un-safe by Consumer Reports because of its propensity to roll over. Those findings were disputed by Suzuki. What I do recall was that driving the Samurai felt only marginally safer than driving a shopping cart.

To be fair, the current crop of Suzuki’s are far more substantial. The trouble is that Suzuki automobiles don’t have a rep for anything but sub-par quality.

Advertising creative has actually found its voice in the last year after years of anonymity. But it’s been so long in coming, and its ad spending is so small compared with other brands, that the company can’t expect consumers to take a flyer on a brand with lower quality ratings than Volkswagen or Kia in the teeth of a Recession.

Sayonara Mr. Suzuki.

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