Why the Jimny is Suzuki’s problem child

Huge demand for new SUV likely to be way ahead of supplies.

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The new Suzuki Jimny goes on UK sale in January, and dealers should be rubbing their hands in anticipation.

Potential customers have been totally sold on the new Jimny’s combination of retro styling and proper off-road ability, and a website set up by Suzuki UK to register interest in the car has received more than 10,000 hits.

So why aren’t Suzuki dealers revelling in the prospect of huge sales for this newcomer? Because they will be unlikely to get anywhere enough Jimnys for those customers. Demand exceeding supply is not a situation Suzuki is familiar with. And in the case of the Jimny, supply is a big issue.


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The car launched first in Japan, in both the normal version and a slimmer variant meeting the country’s Kei-car rules. Basically such cars are the lowest powered variants, are given tax and insurance benefits, and unlike all other cars in Japan a buyer of a Kei-car does not have to prove they have a space to park it in.

As a result, in Japan the waiting list for the Jimny in Japan stretches over a year. Which has a big effect on any sales expansion to Europe. Suzuki UK has been told its entire allocation of Jimnys for the first six months of 2019 is a whole 600 cars. When dealers open their order books in January they could sell out in that same month…

Suzuki Jimny The Car Expert
This many Jimnys in one place is likely to be a rare sight.

“Jimny is the most irritating car I’ve ever had to launch,” Suzuki UK’s sales head Dale Wyatt tells The Car Expert. “This car has demand way ahead of supply – it’s an icon, but I have no idea how many cars I could have to sell.”

And Wyatt believes there is no easy fix to the problem. “The truth is demand is bigger than can be solved by adding a shift in the factory –  it requires another factory, and dealing with that takes time so we are going to have to navigate our way through it probably for a couple of years.”

Trouble is a couple of years is not really what Suzuki has. In an ironic twist, new emissions regulations coming in 2020 could make the Jimny somewhat less attractive to buyers, the manufacturer or both…

The Jimny is only available with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, and to maintain its off-road ability said unit is not one of the brand’s latest Boosterjet turbo units. And with that comes a not very environmentally friendly CO2 emissions level, starting at 158g/km.

From 2020 in Europe, CO2 emissions across Suzuki’s car line-up will be expected to , average 90.5g/km, with a fine of 95 Euros for each gram that level is exceeded. “We could be looking at a €6000 fine per Jimny we sell,” Wyatt says, adding that this would have to either be absorbed or the car sold in the UK not for its current £18,000 but nearer £22,000…

So in the case of the Jimny, popularity may not be good news – especially for Suzuki, and also for the likely to be frustrated buyers who want one…

Suzuki Jimny The Car Expert

 

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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