RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Suzuki Motor Corp.'s sales goal of 100,000 units for the United States 'might not be enough' to guarantee survival, said Kazu-hisa Toda, group leader of automobile overseas planning.
Reaching 100,000 units per year by 2000, a goal set in 1997, would be a good start for subsidiary American Suzuki Motor Corp., Toda said.
'We need a base to jump up (from),' he said.
But the ultimate goal might be closer to 150,000, he said. Competitor Subaru of America Inc., for example, has finally surpassed 150,000 units in the United States and is profitable, Toda said.
'We should concentrate on how to survive in this country,' he said.
American Suzuki expects U.S. sales of about 40,000 units for fiscal 1998. Toda discussed Suzuki's goals here during the May 20 introduction of Ameri-can Suzuki's new flagship vehicle, the Grand Vitara. Toda is based at Suzuki's headquarters in Hamamatsu, Japan.
Toda would not forecast when American Suzuki would reach 150,000 units or when the parent company expects to reach its global sales goal of 2.5 million units per year, about 5 percent of the world market.
'Only God knows,' he said.
Automakers today need to sell at least 2 million vehicles a year worldwide to ensure long-term survival, he said.
Suzuki, the world's 12th-largest automaker in 1997, is nearing that point. Its sales rose 4.6 percent to 1.83 million units in 1997. But future growth depends on how quickly South-east Asian countries rebound from the region's current financial crisis.
'They will be back,' Toda said.