OEM Update: Suzuki

Suzuki is the seventh largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world and has been in business over 100 years. We get an update from Chase Rastegar.

Reaching terminal speeds over 200 mph and quarter-mile elapsed time (ETs) in the six-second range, NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing is some of the most exhilarating racing you can witness. In a majority of this class’s head-to-head races, the winner is likely to be riding a highly modified Suzuki Hayabusa. In fact, of the top 10 teams in NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle racing, six are riding Suzuki.

“Racing is part of our DNA,” says Chase Rastegar, communications manager at Suzuki Motor USA. “We re-entered drag racing two years ago and have had tremendous success with the Gen III Hayabusa. We are looking to expand our sales and grow our business in the United States, and racing really helps to promote the brand.”

In addition to drag racing, Suzuki is doing well in MotoAmerica road racing (six of the top 10 racers in the Daytona 200 rode Suzuki) and Supercross, where several of the top riders are on Suzukis. The Suzuki GSX-8R was recently homologated for Twins Cup road racing, providing a new venue for the brand.

Suzuki is the seventh largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world and has been in business over 100 years. The company was originally organized to make power looms to weave cloth but over the years explored other profit centers. The first attempt at two-wheeled production was in the 1930s, when Suzuki started to build bicycles. After World War II, there was a crying need in Japan for inexpensive personal transportation. Suzuki began manufacturing a clip-on power attachment for its bicycles and eventually started building motorcycles for the home market. The company started exporting to the U.S. in 1963.

Suzuki made a name for itself in motocross in 1971, when Suzuki riders Roger De Coster won the 500cc class World Motocross Championship and Joel Robert became the 250cc class champion. The road-going side of Suzuki received a major boost in 1976 with the release of the GS series of reliable, good-handling four strokes. The same year, Barry Sheene won the 500cc World Championship on a Suzuki. Since these iconic victories, Suzuki motorcycles have continued to rack up wins in different types of competition all over the world.

When management started hearing complaints that the GS series was a little too plain, it commissioned Hans Muth and Target Design of Germany to increase the visual impact of these motorcycles, resulting in the 1981 Katana, a striking machine that was a sales success. It heavily influenced motorcycle design in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Presently, Suzuki sells a wide range of sport bikes, sport tourers, cruisers, touring bikes, adventure bikes, off-road machinery and the iconic Burgman 400cc scooter. The showcase product for 2024 is the GSX-8R, a mid-weight sport bike that has been designed to be more versatile than most in this class. It is up for anything, from comfortable commuting and weekend trips to ripping around a racetrack.

While continuing to develop its internal combustion motorcycles, ATVs and the small cars that are sold outside the U.S., Suzuki has been exploring alternative fuels. Not only is Suzuki working on electric and hybrid-powered vehicles, but the company is also conducting research into hydrogen power. The Burgman scooter has been selected as a platform for hydrogen power testing, and prototypes are being tested.

Mindful that wins on the track need to translate into sales at the dealership, Rastegar explains what Suzuki is doing to help its dealers succeed.

  • Racing wins are great marketing. In addition to providing great advertising every time a Suzuki rider does well, Rastegar points out that dealers can use Suzuki racing successes as a sales talking point to show the reliability and durability of the production motorcycles. After all, most racers are based on production machinery.
  • Racers promote the brand. Nothing leads to sales like a personal recommendation — or the view of a logo on the rear fender that is always ahead in competition. Suzuki provides contingency opportunities for professional and amateur dirt bike and professional road racing competitors. Details on these programs can be found in the racing section of Suzuki USA’s very comprehensive website. There is also a dealer program, which assists dealerships to sponsor local motocross racers. Rastegar says the program is underutilized, and interested dealers should contact their area reps about it.
    Related: Racer and Dealer Sponsorship Must Be a Two-Way Street
  • RM Army Boot Camp: A unique experience for motocrossers, giving avid riders a chance to hang with and learn from the pro Suzuki teams. Information about this event, which takes place four times a year at venues in different parts of the U.S., is in the racing section of Suzuki USA’s website.
  • Suzuki makes products people want. Suzuki has been on a roll on the sales front as well as on the racetrack. Annual sales have zoomed since the bottom of the pandemic in 2020. Global sales reached their highest-ever point in 2023.
  • Demo days at local dealerships: The company has no plans to rest and is undertaking several different initiatives to help dealers increase U.S. sales. Besides race support, Suzuki is sending its demo trucks all over the U.S. this spring and summer. Its website lists the dates, times and locations for demo truck visits. Most of the demo ride events take place at dealerships, although some are at MotoAmerica races and others are at popular events, such as Arizona Bike Week.
  • Dealer advertising support: Suzuki also provides support for dealer advertising. Dealers interested in this program can contact their area sales managers. Development of social media is increasingly essential to sales, but busy dealers often can’t find time to write interesting posts. Suzuki has stepped up to the plate by offering dealers content that can easily be adapted for a local dealer’s audience.
  • Support of training and safety programs: In the interest of keeping customers happily riding, Suzuki supports motorcycle and ATV training programs. Suzuki will refund $100 to customers who take a training course and buy a Suzuki motorcycle. Contact information for rider education for both motorcycles and ATVs is provided on the website with links to applications for approved courses.
  • The website: Sales personnel who familiarize themselves with Suzuki’s website can use it to back up their claims about a product, discuss available parts and accessories, verify the particulars of customer protection plans, and display current financing and other offers.
  • Inclusive advertising: Suzuki has always included women riders in its advertising and is committed to show people of different ages and backgrounds enjoying Suzuki vehicles. Women are also attracted by a commitment to safety and to rider training, and dealers can build on these themes with their female customers.

“This is a good time to be a Suzuki dealer,” Rastegar says. “We are looking at expansion and continued growth.”

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