TOKYO - Suzuki Motor Corp. will launch a remodeled Grand Vitara near year end - adding a key element in its five-year plan to nearly triple North American sales.
The five-seat SUV with a 2.7-liter
V-6 engine will offer a smoother ride than the current version by combining a monocoque body with a built-in ladder frame, Suzuki says.
The Grand Vitara also will feature full-time all-wheel drive.
The remodeled vehicle - 12 inches longer and 1.2 inches wider than the current version - will try to appeal mainly to men in their 30s and 40s, according to the automaker.
Suzuki expects the Grand Vitara to compete with the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
The automaker has set an annual Grand Vitara sales goal of 40,000 in North America.
That would help Suzuki reach its companywide sales goal of 250,000 units in North America in the fiscal year ending in March 2010.
In the fiscal year that ended March 31, the automaker sold 84,662 units in North America.
Suzuki has no plans to build the Grand Vitara in North America. Suzuki plans global sales of 125,000 of the redesigned SUV after it reaches all markets next year.
The model will arrive in Europe late this year or early next year with an annual sales goal of 60,000.
For the European version, Suzuki will procure a diesel engine from an undisclosed European automaker.
The current Grand Vitara sold in Europe has a diesel engine from PSA/Peugeot-Citroen.
In Japan, the 2.0-liter SUV, called the Escudo, went on sale Monday, May 16.
That model be followed by a 2.7-liter version in June.
The base model for Japan is priced at 1.94 million yen, or about $18,500 at current exchange rates.