Ramblings on a Sunday - The upcoming Proton-Suzuki Ertiga collaboration model and what might have been

Imagine if Suzuki had brought this into Malaysia in 2012.....

I had recently heard that one of the first few collaboration vehicles under the Proton-Suzuki joint venture is the Suzuki Ertiga small SUV. Recent in this case was about a week or so ago but since it was Chinese New Year and I had opinions and news about other things to write about I have now decided to say a bit more on what I think the of this Suzy MPV and some background stuff about Suzuki in Malaysia.

Anyway, News reports from Indonesia's Kompas.com had quoted PT Suzuki Indomobil Sales (SIS) stating that the Ertiga will be exported to Malaysia in CKD kits from the second quarter of 2016. At the same time, Proton has officially announced that the first Proton-Suzuki joint model will enter production before the end of 2016. So if you put two and two together, you get the Ertiga as the latest rebadged Proton to hit Malaysian shores. The one that you could buy prior to this was the Proton Inspira nee Mitsubishi Lancer. This is not counting the rebadged Honda Accord aka Perdana government car as a reworked for the public version has not been launched as yet.

The Suzuki Eritiga is a compact MPV. It competes with the likes of the Toyota Avanza, Nissan Grand Livina and the Perodua Alza in Malaysia. It does not really compete with the larger Proton Exora head on as it is smaller in terms of overall length width and height despite having a very slightly shorter wheelbase. It was first launched in 2012 in India and Indonesia. This was followed by sales in CBU form by 2014 to the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Vietnam and South Africa.This car was designed for developing nations, where engine, drivetrain, suspension and overall design is kept as simple as possible. In fact, the car has been so well received in Indonesia that it has outsold the very popular Toyota Innova there. In fact, Mazda sells it as a VX-1 over in Indonesia too. The Ertiga can be considered a successful vehicle for Suzuki. And you can see why this is the first choice for the collaboration between Proton and Suzuki.

Do note that the Suzuki Swift dashboard is utilised here in the Ertiga, mounted higher up than in the small hatchback. And change that S logo into the Proton Tiger. You get the picture.

The car is based on the current Suzuki Swift platform but lengthened to suit its role as a people carrier that can seat seven but with short overhands (like  you see in the Perodua Alza). This car is powered by the same engine you can find in a Suzuki Swift - the Suzuki 1.4 litre petrol engine coupled to either a 5 speed manual or a 4 speed automatic (there is a diesel version, but since Malaysia is predominantly a petrol market....I'm not that interested to talk about it here). This tiny engine makes 95hp and 130Nm torque. It should be adequate for something that weighs 1180kgs (the Alza has 104hp / 136Nm and 1150kg, so its close and actually industry standard). And please, 0-100kmh times or top speed is not important, ever, for a MPV. 


But let's take a trip back in time. In 2004 Suzuki officially set foot in Malaysia. This is according to Suzuki "Suzuki Malaysia Automobile was established in December 2004 to import and market Suzuki automobiles. It began selling Suzuki automobiles in Malaysia in May 2005 as an authorized distributor.

With a view to further establish and promote Suzuki automobiles in Malaysia, Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) and Itochu Corporation entered into a joint venture agreement with DRB-HICOM in early 2008 on a 40:20:40 shareholding ratio.

Suzuki Malaysia Automobile commenced the local assembly of Suzuki Swift back in 2007 with plans to assemble more models locally in the future at DRB-HICOM’s Automotive Complex in Pekan, which at the end of the day will provide savings and benefits to the customers and generate the economy whilst promoting the local automotive market."

In 2005 Suzuki first started selling the fulling imported Swift models here. By 2007, they were locally assembling the model. In 2006 they were also selling the Grand Vitara and they added the SX4 and Alto models. 2011 Suzuki Malaysia was ambitious and brought in the mid-sized sedan called the Kizashi. I think things went downhill from here. The current Swift was launched in 2013, a good three years after it was launched globally with CKD kits coming in later in that year. I think this delay in coming out with the new Swift was a mistake and launching a larger sedan when the market embraced small Suzukis was another. Maybe that large Kizashi, whilst a superb handling sedan was priced high and it was smaller than the class leaders - the Camry and the Accord. You can't come to a gunfight bearing the smallest gun and expect to do well do you? So by 2013-2014, Suzuki Malaysia was only selling one car, the Swift. A one car company is bound to end up as a dead car company.

And now note that in 2012 Suzuki launched the Ertiga in India and Indonesia. The MPV became hugely popular in both countries. I think that IF Suzuki had brought in the Ertiga and sold it at the price Toyota sold the then newly launched Toyota Avanza second generation (between RM65k for the base 1.3 to RM80k for the top spec 1.5), Suzuki would have made a killing. It looks so much better than the Avanza and it had a monocoque chassis unlike the primitive Avanza body-on-frame chassis. I do believe Malaysians would have flocked to this better looking and better tech Ertiga over the stone age based Avanza. 

If Suzuki Malaysia sold the Ertiga then we may not have seen this collaboration happen as Suzuki could have been a market leader in the compact MPV segment here in Malaysia. Why this did not happen I cannot say. If I wanted to say the government would not allow Suzuki to sell the Ertiga over here that would be a conspiracy theory. Toyota could sell their crappy Avanza. Suzuki and DRB-Hicom would have loved a direct competitor to UMW Toyota's Avanza. But do note back then DRB-Hicom had just regained control over Proton (January 2012). Maybe this is what stopped further discussion within the partners of Suzuki Malaysia. 

All these are just questions which even if we knew the answer to would be quite worthless trivia as right now what we positively know is that the Suzuki Ertiga will be the next Proton MPV. 

WHAT IF Suzuki had sold the Ertiga back in 2012-2013 and the car was a successful model. Just to get your minds thinking a little this Sunday evening folks. And do note that he Suzy Ertiga looks like a decent little MPV to drive around in when it is launched here in Malaysia.

So good that even Mazda rebadged it as a VX-1 over in Indonesia

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