Suzuki’s Kizashi mid-size sedan is the best automobile the Japanese automaker has ever produced. It’s stylish, it’s comfortable and it represents solid value for the money; despite this, sales of the Kizashi to date have been disappointing, and that’s an understatement. Suzuki has sold just under 5,300 Kizashis since the car went on sale earlier this year. That’s not exactly Toyota Camry territory, so Suzuki will roll out a new ad campaign beginning on Christmas day.
Called “Kizashi Kicks”, the ads will feature the Kizashi head to head against luxury sport sedan rivals from Audi (the A4), Mercedes-Benz (the C300) and Acura (the TSX). To support the TV campaign, Suzuki has set up a website (www.kizashikicks.com) with videos, car comparisons and all the data you’d ever want to know about the Kizashi. The campaign will run through March 2011, and Suzuki hopes it will be enough to turn around plummeting sales. The automaker sold 101,884 cars in 2007, but is on track to move just under 23,000 units in the U.S. this year.
I’ve reviewed the Kizashi, and it really is a good car, just not a great car. Despite Suzuki’s ad campaign, it isn’t a sport sedan and it isn’t a rival the Acura TSX, the Mercedes-Benz C300 or the Audi A4. It’s a well built car, but it needs serious refinement (especially the engine and transmission) to compete against entry level sport / luxury sedans. My advice to Suzuki is simple: rework the six speed transmission to offer closer ratios, use a lighter flywheel and add more weight to the steering at low speed. Make those changes (and substitute a conventional five speed automatic for the CVT), then pitch the Kizashi against the VW Jetta and the Chevy Cruze. Find the right audience (and the right price point), and there’s no reason you can’t be successful with the Kizashi in the U.S. market.