American Suzuki Motor Corp. has asked its roughly 300 dealers to fill out surveys on their business plans for the rest of the year if they want to be eligible for co-op advertising funds in the fourth quarter.
Suzuki is asking dealers to anticipate their new-vehicle sales, inventory needs and advertising budgets from September through December, according to a copy of the form obtained by Automotive News. Each dealership's plan must be approved by the factory's regional representative before the dealership gets fourth-quarter co-op advertising funding.
Suzuki spokesman Jeff Holland says the company has asked dealers for business plans in the past, but this most recent request is the first one tied to co-op ad funding eligibility.
"The biggest component is getting to see what they want to sell and what they want to stock," said Chris Coons, manager of sales programs and field operations for American Suzuki.
"We added the element of asking, 'How are you going to hit these numbers? What are you going to do for advertising?' It's kind of a natural dovetail of asking that question to tie it into co-op" funds.
Co-op funding formulas remain unchanged. Dealers can keep a percentage of monthly wholesale invoices to fund ad campaigns, according to a September memo to dealers.
Suzuki also will match 50 cents of every dollar dealers spend on ads, and the maximum match rises with sales. If the store sells five to nine Suzuki vehicles in a month, the dealer gets up to $2,500 in co-op funds. If it sells 30 to 39, the maximum match is $20,000, the memo says.
The new requirement comes after Suzuki cut about 50 of its worst-performing U.S. dealerships through a buyout program this summer. Suzuki sales fell 52 percent through August, and sales fell 54 percent last year. Suzuki, like all Japanese automakers, is under pressure to control costs as the yen hovers near 15-year highs against the dollar.
By knowing how many cars each dealer plans to stock and sell, the brand can better control inventory.
"We're trying to be a lot smarter, as everybody is," Holland said. "We're probably more sensitive to the yen because we're heavily reliant on products that come out of Japan."
Imports from Japan accounted for 92 percent of Suzuki's U.S. sales through August, compared with 11 percent for Honda Motor Co.