New segments likely with Suzuki realignment

Realignment to focus on marine, powersports units

American Suzuki Motor Corp. announced that the company is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a realignment that will focus its future efforts on its motorcycle/ATV and marine divisions, while the company exits the automotive market.

“If you’re a Suzuki powersports dealer and you’re doing the things you’re supposed to be doing, then you have no concern at all with this news,” Larry Vandiver, American Suzuki Motor Corp. sales and marketing senior director, told Powersports Business. “Actually, it’s a really good move for our company in powersports. I’ll probably get blamed for it all because when I started with the company, this is what we really were — we were a motorcycle, ATV and marine company. What will happen over the course of business is all the focus, all the emphasis, from our factory to [Brea, Calif.], will be all about motorcycle, ATV and marine, and how to improve that business, come up with innovative new products and how to take that business forward.”

Following the bankruptcy filing, many of the 930 Suzuki motorcycle and ATV dealers in the U.S. converged on Las Vegas for the company’s Nov. 11-Nov. 13 dealer meeting. Suzuki introduced five new motorcycle models at the meeting. Vandiver said plans call for four models to be introduced in calendar 2013 and four more in 2014.

“Looking at all of those things, we saw nothing but a good bright future, but we needed more dedication within the walls of this facility towards those goals,” he said. “We’re increasing our business, our revenues are good, we’re eking out a profit and we’re happy to say our marine business even through all of the economic downturn continued to be a profit center for us. Now we’ve turned the corner in motorcycle and ATV, and every month is improving.”

Vandiver said Suzuki sees a “good, bright future” in powersports, but needed more dedication to the segment at the corporate level. A future entry into the side-by-side market could be enhanced by the latest turn of events, although Vandiver wasn’t ready to unveil any distinct plans.

Suzuki dealers will see five new motorcycle models for 2013, including the Boulevard C90 T B.O.S.S.

“I believe it will give us the opportunity to look at new markets and increase our business on that side,” he said. “As you well know, that part of the business is increasing, and I definitely would like to lean that way. We felt it was very important last year to first of all cement our core business. That was our first thought, and that’s what we’ve been busy doing this year with our 0 [percent] interest program, and bringing back our sport bike business. It gives us an opportunity to look at new products and ways that we can grow this part of our business.”

And while the auto side was Suzuki’s main focus at the corporate level prior to the realignment and Chapter 11 filing, Vandiver is looking forward to seeing the growth that powersports and marine can take.

“Now it all falls on our shoulders. Now we live and die on our own. We control our own destiny now,” he said. “We’re not so much concerned about what goes on on the other [auto] end, we’re focused on motorcycle, ATV and marine.”

Suzuki Manufacturing of America’s factory in Rome, Ga., is not affected at all by any of the transactions, and continues to produce ATVs. In fact, Vandiver said the company’s ATV business is on the upswing.

“We’re having some rebound, seeing good sales increase over last year with ATV, and we had a pretty good year in fall with ATV,” he said. “We’re seeing a fair increase right now.”

The aforementioned 0 percent financing program brought in buyers who otherwise might have purchased used, or for cash. “Instead, it was better for him to buy new. I saw a lot of credit scores on the average go up.”

Vandiver said American Suzuki has been assured by GE Capital’s Retail Finance and Commercial Distribution Finance businesses that they will continue to provide motorcycle and ATV consumer financing, and motorcycle, ATV and marine dealer inventory financing, respectively. The company expects existing agreements with other dealer and consumer financing providers to continue as well.

Vandiver, who joined Suzuki in 1977, felt especially disappointed for those employees on the auto side who lost their jobs due to the Chapter 11 filing.

“When you first hear those two words put together, you have a little pain in your heart. As you study it and realize the steps the company has made, you understand that it’s the best thing for motorcycle, ATV and marine, as well as the dealers. We feel good about the corner we’ve turned. That’s allowed us to work closely with the factory for some long term plans to improve product and increase the product offering.”


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