The last couple of years haven’t been particularly kind to Suzuki Motor Corporation. The company’s US division filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and the automaker announced that it would be halting sales of passenger cars in both America and Canada.
Suzuki still sells cars in its home market, but recent moves by Japanese politicians looking to scale back tax breaks for the compact cars the Shizuoka-based manufacturer specializes in have put it in a precarious position. As the man in the hot seat, Suzuki CEO Osamu Suzuki has come up with a bold and unorthodox plan: openly insult his customers.
While Suzuki is most famous in North America for its motorcycles, the company does also produce four-wheeled transportation. The majority of Suzuki’s automobiles are classified by the Japanese government as kei (“light”) cars. To be categorized as a kei, a car must measure under 3.4 meters (11.2 feet) long, 1.48 meters wide, and two meters tall, with an engine no bigger than 660 ccs.
▼ The Solio, one of several kei cars sold by Suzuki
While this may seem like far too small a mode of transportation for any self-respecting adult, there are legions of proud kei owners in Japan. Their small size makes them easy to navigate through crowded city streets or along narrow country roads. Parking is a snap, and they burn far less of Japan’s high-priced gas than full-sized cars. And their low sticker price makes them popular with young people buying a first car, who often later pour money into customizing them once they’ve saved up the cash to do so.
One of the biggest advantages to kei cars is the lower rate at which they’re taxed. Although recently the Japanese government has been mulling over increasing the amount it levies on the compact autos, eroding one of the key sales points of Suzuki Motor Corporation’s products. CEO Suzuki, unsurprisingly upset by this, has accused the government of bullying his company.
It seems CEO Suzuki also has a grudge against rival automakers Honda and Daihatsu, both of which also produce kei cars and are currently enjoying greater success than Suzuki. Reporters recently asked for the CEO’s impression of Honda and Daihatsu’s kei offerings, some of which their manufacturers tout as having sporty styling or driving manners.
No one would have been too surprised had CEO Suzuki responded by expressing his disdain for his competitors’ products. Instead, he took the inexplicable route of seizing the opportunity to run down his own customers.
“Kei cars are cars for poor people. They don’t need sports cars.”
Kei owners online quickly responded to the slap in the face.
“Wow. I just got called poor.”
“I may be poor, but no way I’m buying a Suzuki as my next car!”
“What he’s saying is true, but it’s not really the kind of statement a kei manufacturer should make.”
“Has Suzuki’s CEO always been this dumb?”
“So, is he some kind of masochist or something?”
There’s even a bit of hypocrisy in CEO Suzuki’s claim that no one wants a sporty kei, as Suzuki Motor Corporation itself went after that segment of car buyers in the past with its convertible, rear-while drive Cappuccino, which was billed as “The kei car of your dreams, and what kei cars dream to be.”
Daihatsu’s Copen also earned a group of ardent fans by offering a dose of fun with its economical kei design.
To be fair, though, both the Copen and Cappuccino are now out of production. CEO Suzuki may have been speaking in hyperbole by saying no one wants a sporty kei, but one could definitely make the argument that the number of people actually willing to pony up the cash for such a car is so small that designing and building one isn’t economically feasible.
That said, it’s never a good idea to insult your customer base. We at RocketNews24 always aim to treat our loyal readers with the utmost respect. Not that that’s a difficult task, of course, seeing as how you’re all so intelligent and charming. And by the way, have we mentioned how good-looking you all are?
Take notes, Mr. Suzuki.