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Suzuki seeks to move people

Timed out: The Maruti-designed Suzuki R3 Concept people-mover is at least two years away.

The Suzuki R3 Concept heralds an inexpensive people-mover for developing markets

11 Jan 2010

FIRST flagged by GoAuto way back at the 2004 Paris motor show, the long-time-coming Suzuki people-mover has finally broken cover at the Delhi motor show in India.

But don’t stand by waiting for the production version of this MPV – dubbed the R3 Concept at this month’s Delhi motor show in India – to arrive any time soon.

This vehicle is just a concept car for now, built by partner Maruti to gauge the viability of a Suzuki/Maruti people-mover in the Indian market.

Its forward-opening rear doors, big wheels and ultra chic seats suggest flights of fancy more than anything steeped in production reality.

Nevertheless, Suzuki says the design and manufacture of the concept is a Maruti in-house effort that took just nine months to get to show-car status.

Whether the R3 Concept sees the light of day is still unknown. Suzuki concepts are notorious for their ultra-long gestation periods – the soon-to-be released Kizashi Camry competitor was first shown in 2007.

An overseas report states that the company is still between 18 and 24 months away from showing the final production version – if the green light is given.

30 center imageThe R3 Concept is designed to take on the rather agricultural Toyota Innova – an inexpensive people-mover built off the ladder-frame chassis of the Toyota HiLux. To help keep costs down it is manufactured in India and Indonesia.

Speculation suggests that the SX4 small-car may form the basis for any productionised version of the R3 Concept – meaning that it will be front-wheel drive. Engine sizes will probably be limited 1.6-litres.

Suzuki spokesman Andrew Ellis advises Australians not to hold their breath for the R3 Concept making it to our shores, saying the Japanese company has a busy few years ahead consolidating and updating the current line-up.

Launching in May will be the Kizashi, while the next-generation Swift light car, all-new Grand Vitara compact SUV and perhaps the Splash city car are also on the radar.

Also keeping Suzuki from bringing in the R3 Concept is the fact that compact wagons and small people-movers have historically struggled to obtain a sales foothold in Australia, as the scattered carcasses of the unloved Holden Zafira, Kia Carens, Mazda Premacy, Daewoo Tacuma and Renault Scenic testify.

Suzuki has been in partnership with Maruti since 1983, and commands 55 per cent of the total passenger car market in India.

This level of sales domination even eclipses Holden’s halcyon days of market leadership in the late 1950s, when one in two passenger cars sold in Australia was an FC Holden.

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