TOKYO — A lack of cutting-edge technology has long kept Suzuki Motor Corp., one of Japan’s smaller automakers, in constant search for a larger partner. Now, Suzuki is starting to tout its own tech.
The small-car specialist, which pulled out of the U.S. market in 2012, is migrating hybrid drivetrain technology and advanced safety systems down market into minicars to showcase its cost-cutting and downsizing acumen.
The technology is being packed into the sixth-generation Japanese-market Wagon R .
Suzuki wants the revamped Wagon R to help the company recapture its position in its home-market minicar business, which it once dominated but recently has surrendered.
Suzuki gave the ultrasmall car a pre-crash auto-braking system that incorporates camera sensors and infrared laser radar.
The one-box wagon also gets a head-up display, a first among Japanese minicars.
The Wagon R also is the first car to get Suzuki’s newest mild hybrid system. Its electric motor, powered by a lithium ion battery, powers the car from a standing start to spare the engine the expense of burning fuel. After the car is briefly underway in EV mode, the engine clicks in to power the load.
The engineering results in the highest fuel economy among Japanese minicars under Japan’s fuel economy testing — 33.4 kilometers per liter, or 78.5 mpg, according to the company.
The Wagon R was Japan’s best-selling minicar from 2006 through 2011, according to the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association. It slipped to ninth place last year, with annual sales of 81,134.
Consumer preference has changed over the years as there are now more choices, President Toshihiro Suzuki said.
“It’s a competition,” he said at the car’s launch. “We aim to become No. 1 in overall subcompact car sales.”