As folk singer Joni Mitchell might have put it: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
With American Suzuki Motor Corp. preparing to close its automotive operations in the coming year sales have suddenly surged in ways that the Japanese company could have only dreamed of in recent years. In fact, the maker has had to increase imports from Japan to meet surging demand – a move that required approval from a U.S. bankruptcy judge.
Sales in November surged 22%, to 2,224 vehicles and, according to the maker, demand is strong this month, as well. Of course, an expanded, 7-year warranty and a big increase in incentives meant to clear out dealer lots has certainly helped.
That said, sales are still way off from their recent peak. American Suzuki sold 120,000 vehicles in 2008, and expects to end 2012 with volume of barely 22,000. On average, two-thirds of its dealers have been selling less than five vehicles a month.
The maker had hoped to build back its game several years ago with the launch of the oddly named Kizashi sedan but the midsize model failed to generate much traction despite generally favorable reviews.
Facing few prospects for a turnaround even as the American economy began to recover, Suzuki Motor Corp. decided it was time to call it quits – in the U.S., anyway — putting its subsidiary into bankruptcy on November 5th.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, California has already approved a plan to help shut down the auto operations while maintaining Suzuki’s motorcycle, ATV and boat business. But the court also had to approve a request to borrow $50 million to import the additional 2,500 cars Suzuki now expects to sell in its final months of operation.
“When we told dealers, ‘We have one last chance,’ the dealers said, ‘Go get them,’” M. Freddie Reiss, the company’s chief restructuring officer, told the Bloomberg news service.
But he emphasized that there will be no more vehicles produced for the U.S. and despite the sudden surge in demand there will be no reprieve for American Suzuki.