RICK KRANZ

Suzuki looking for some respect on the road

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
Despite favorable reviews from the automotive press, few in America are aware of the Suzuki Kizashi, the mid-sized sedan with the odd sounding name.

I've driven the Kizashi, and in my opinion, it's the best-handling sedan Suzuki's ever produced. So far, barely 3,000 cars have been sold here. But an upcoming road trip just might put the spotlight on the car and draw shoppers to Suzuki dealerships.

The term “road trip” is misleading. This is an endurance run from Tokyo to LA, via Russia, Alaska and Canada. Suzuki says that's nearly 7,500 miles over asphalt, gravel and mud. The month-long adventure starts Monday and should finish Labor Day. The group will start at Suzuki's new plant in Sagara, Japan, and end in Brea, Calif., Suzuki's North American headquarters.

The trip will be covered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and on Suzuki's web site, www.suzukiauto.com/allpoints/events/road-trip/

Everything will be reported; warts and all, I'm told.

Also participating is a Suzuki Equator pickup and a Suzuki V-Strom DL 650 motorcycle. The Equator will serve as a support vehicle, carrying tires, parts, gasoline and other stuff. Teams will come from various enthusiast publications.

Interestingly, the Equator is a rebadged Frontier, so any positive publicity that comes out of this endurance run for the pickup could be a boon for Nissan, too.

Suzuki's U.S. dealers need some good news. Suzuki's U.S. vehicle sales keep sliding. They're off 48 percent for the year, and they dropped a whopping 44 percent in July, year-over-year. So far this year, only 13,501 Suzuki cars and trucks have been sold here.

The industry may be rebounding, but Suzuki's in freefall.

This trip should be fun to follow on the Internet.

Will it put the Kizashi on the map and generate some excitement and sales for Suzuki?

Stay tuned.

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