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Suzuki to axe Alto nameplate

Re-badge: It's out with the Alto and in with the Celerio, with Suzuki planning to re-name its next-generation city car here (A:Wind concept pictured).

Thai-made Celerio to replace current Indian-made Alto in Suzuki range


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4 Dec 2013

SUZUKI will replace its current Indian-built Alto city car with a new-generation, Thai-made model called the Celerio from late-2014, but is still confident of maintaining the mantle of Australia’s cheapest new car.

The new model was previewed by the 90 per cent production-ready A:Wind concept at last week’s Thai motor show. The road-going version will emerge next year and find its way to Australia within 12 months.

At present, both the Alto and Celerio badges are applied in various global markets, but from the next generation on, Suzuki is opting to go for a single global standard, with the Alto badge used here and in Europe the one that gets the chop.

But the company’s local arm says it is confident it won’t lose too much momentum despite having to forgo the brand equity tied up in the long-running Alto name in favour of an unknown badge, citing greater buyer awareness in the digital age.

Sourcing the Celerio from Thailand - where it will be built on a new production line alongside the (not-for-Australia) Splash city hatchback - brings numerous benefits to the table, not least the free trade agreement in place between Australia and the South-East Asian nation dubbed the ‘Detroit of Asia’ in some quarters.

The move to Thailand also circumvents issues the company has had with its Maruti India plant that makes the current Alto, led by a long-lead time on forward orders of up to six months. With the next-generation model, supplies can arrive within 10 days of leaving port.

According to Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers, the free-trade deal and Thailand’s relative geographical proximity to us mean the Celerio has every chance of undercutting the $11,790 (plus on-road charges) Alto, which is now Australia’s cheapest new car following the axing of the Chinese-made Chery J1.

“Is there potential to drop the Alto price (from next-generation)?” he said.

“You would like to think so, although Thailand is still a start-up plant so they’ll be getting economy of scale going.”

Suzuki Australia admits it would prefer to retain the Alto name, which was among the first of a plethora of sub-light or A-segment hatchbacks to enter the local market. But it has said it would not fight the global directive to switch.

The A:Wind revealed last week sports a name that refers to the Japanese company’s desire to “bring a fresh wind to the A-segment”.

Suzuki stopped short of providing full details, but claimed improved occupant space, cargo storage and cabin quality over the Alto. Under the bonnet is a 1.0-litre engine – likely a reworked version of the current Alto’s 50kW/90Nm three-cylinder – matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

At 3600mm long, 1600mm wide and 1540mm high, it’s moderately longer and taller than the current Alto, while its 2425mm wheelbase grows by 60mm to open up interior space.

Externally, the concept features outlandish 16-inch alloy wheels, and an edgy design somewhat reminiscent of the current Swift and Splash – both larger cars.

Suzuki said the swooping grille with integrated headlights was penned to create the impression of elegance.

Despite being Australia’s most affordable new car, Alto sales are down 26.4 per cent this year in a light-car segment that has dipped only 2.6 per cent by comparison. Booming sales for Mitsubishi’s new-to-market Mirage (7884 units this year) may account for some of this drop.

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