If Suzuki Jimny Doesn’t Get To U.S., Maybe Imitators Will?
“Suzuki just announced the 2019 Jimny and we want it. Sadly, though, Suzuki is just going to tease us”
“We want the Jimny”.
That cry is gaining momentum across the U.S., as off-road lovers swoon at the sight of the rugged and now super-cute new Suzuki Jimny.
If you want to buy a serious offroader the choices are limited. There’s the Jeep Wrangler family, with prices from at least $30,000, and that’s about it, given that the Mercedes G-Class starts at $126,300.
The trouble is the Jimny is not available in the U.S., at least for now, with Suzuki of Japan having left in 2013. If it was, prices would probably start at close to $15,000 before taxes. And when Suzuki was operating in the U.S. it never felt able to sell the little 3-door Jimny, which was always a bit underpowered and unsophisticated, and probably looked pitifully small to Americans anyway. Even its detractors though always conceded that when the going got tough, the Jimny was peerless in its ability to climb mountains and ford raging rivers.
Blogs and websites like www.gearjunkie.com have been monitoring the launch of the new Jimny across Europe, and columnist Bryon Dorr likes what he sees.
“Suzuki just announced the 2019 Jimny and we want it. Sadly, though, Suzuki is just going to tease us. It doesn’t need us. The brand has sold the Jimny in 194 countries and regions since 1970. It has sold more than 2.85 million so far, and not one was sold new in the U.S.,” Dorr said.
“Suzuki, we want the Jimny,” Dorr said.
Suzuki says it has no plans at the moment to sell the Jimny in the U.S., despite the clamor and pleading petitions online.
But could Suzuki change its mind? Some analysts think a strong case can be made.
“I saw the Jimny in Europe and thought it was well executed. The problem is that Suzuki is no longer competing in the U.S. market and is missing out on a great opportunity,” said Kelley Blue Book analyst Matt DeLorenzo.
“Wrangler sales are really strong and the new Gladiator pickup based on it should sell equally well. There is a definite true off-roader market in the U.S. as evidenced by the Ford Raptor and Chevy Colorado ZR2. Also, Ford is promising to bring back the Bronco as an off-roader precisely in that segment the Jimny – also known as Samurai here – used to compete in. Also, you’re seeing SUV designs getting more truck inspired styling, so that is a trend,” DeLorenzo said.
Last year Jeep sold 190,522 Wranglers in the U.S. In the first 10 months of 2018 it sold 204,269, according to www.carsalesbase.com.
Ed Kim, analyst at AutoPacific, thinks there is likely to be strong demand for small off-roaders like the Jimny, and this is likely to prompt a similar vehicle from Jeep and Ford.
“The market for SUVs has expanded in the U.S. to the point where there is room for so much more variety in this market. As such, we are seeing so many more different varieties of SUVs today, from traditional SUVs in all sizes to rakish coupe-like SUVs to all-out off-roaders like Wrangler and the upcoming Bronco,” said AutoPacific analyst Ed Kim.
“There are no true small off-roaders in this market, and I do think the market here could accommodate them. After all, Wrangler has gotten to the point where it’s a genuinely expensive vehicle, packed with content and technology. Bronco will occupy a similar price position. Off-road enthusiasts looking for something less expensive currently have to look to the used market,” Kim said.
“While Suzuki is long gone from this market, Jeep does understand the need for a smaller and less expensive off-road vehicle and to that end, (it) has confirmed that they have one in the works. It will be a global model sold all around the world and word has it that it’s conceptually not so different from Jimny. Ford also has a less expensive “baby” Bronco in the works and while it’s confirmed to be a unit-body vehicle, Ford claims that it will have good off-road chops. So, the market is already starting to respond to a perceived need for smaller and less costly alternatives to Wrangler,” said Kim.
The new Jimny sells in Britain from just under $20,000, including taxes. It is powered by a new 1.5-liter, 100 hp, four-cylinder gasoline engine replacing the old 1.3 liter one. Maximum speed is 90 mph and acceleration is so mediocre Suzuki won’t disclose the figure. There’s a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic option. It will cruise comfortably at legal maximum speeds without much trouble. I drove it off-road and on country roads and highways and it was no racing machine, but performed just fine. It handled well at motorway cruising speeds and wasn’t as bouncy as the old one.
The new Jimny retains its traditional so-called ladder-frame chassis for maximum off road performance, much like its closest competitor, the much more expensive Jeep Wrangler. Four-wheel drive availability is of course standard, and there’s no namby-pamby computerized nonsense. If you want to move from 2-wheel drive to all-wheel drive, you actually have to physically reach down, depress the clutch and move it into 4×4 mode.
So could Suzuki change its mind and decide to re-enter the U.S. market with the new Jimny? If it does, it will have to put right a safety problem. The latest Jimny only managed 3 out of 5 stars in the
Euro NCAP safety rating test. Euro NCAP said the Jimny fell short on adult occupant protection and safety assist systems. A Suzuki spokesman said this.
“Safety is paramount to Suzuki, it acknowledges the results of the even stricter protocol 2018 NCAP test for Jimny and will keep trying to further improve its safety. The new Jimny has a much higher level of safety than the previous model. Its standard safety equipment includes multi airbags, Dual Sensor Brake Support and Lane Departure warning,” Suzuki said.