With the emergence of a possible Proton and Suzuki joint model by the end of the year, speculations abound on the mysterious Suzuki model that may be carrying the black tiger emblem sometime in the future. Here are some the things we gathered:
- It won’t be a model that Suzuki sold previously. Hence, that eliminates the Alto, Swift, Jimny and S-Cross models
- An excerpt from Proton’s press statement reads, “Suzuki will then provide specific technical assistance for the products while it leverages on Proton’s vast local distribution and service network for its rebranded cars.” This suggests that the likelihood of a rebadged Suzuki model being sold in Malaysia is as good as zero.
- It will be based on Suzuki’s A or B segment car.
- It’s in a segment that Proton has not produced or contended before.
On that note, there can be only one model we can think off. Enter the Suzuki Ertiga.
For the uninitiated, the Ertiga is a compact MPV model based on an extended Swift platform. Introduced in 2012, the seven-seater MPV was jointly developed by Suzuki and its Indian subsidiary, Maruti Autos. Based on a B-segment platform, the car is considered as a crossover between a hatchback and an MPV.
The Ertiga is powered by two engine options: a 1.4-litre petrol that produces 93 hp with 130 Nm of torque, and a Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel that churns 88 hp with 200 Nm of torque. Gearbox options include the tried and tested five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Although the engine’s numbers seem like they were taken from a car catalogue a decade ago, practicality and low running costs are the two key reasons why the Ertiga is a big hit in populous countries such as the Indonesia and India. After all, the Ertiga is aimed at developing nations rather than in Japan.
This brings us to our next point. We think the next Proton-Suzuki model will be based on what Maruti Suzuki cheekily claims as an LUV (Life Utility Vehicle). Here’s why:
- In order for Suzuki to test its partnership with Proton, it would be wise for the Japanese to pick a “proven” model that needs little development. The Ertiga sold well in developing nations, hence lies the potential of this model in Malaysia.
- The time frame. Since the signing of their MoU in June 2015, a joint model was to be released by the end of the year, and it will make better sense for them to work on swapping the badge from an existing model given the time constraints. The 18-month period will provide ample time for that, as developing a model from scratch might take up to 2-3 years to bear fruit.
- The new Ertiga will allow Proton to compete in a segment it’s not in. Despite having a larger Exora MPV model in its stable, the Exora has aged and it’s battling a price disadvantage when compared to Perodua Alza. The Alza scores well among Malaysians due to its affordability, proven reliability and better perceived value. The Ertiga rebadge model however, seems promising enough to give the Alza a real run for its money.
- Apart from the Ertiga, the Celerio (pictured below) would be another ideal candidate to become the next Proton car. Proton has yet to have an A-Segment hatchback and the Celerio would fill that gap. Despite that, the likelihood for that to happen is low as reports show the new Saga model, part of the four new models to be launched by Proton this year, will be demoted to an A-segment car. That said, it’s unwise to have two cars competing in the same segment.
Although the Ertiga makes perfect sense for this joint model, fingers crossed Proton will not retain its original four-speed automatic gearbox because you know, it’s 2016. In any case, Proton has already ditched the antiquated four-speed automatics to make way for a similarly underwhelming CVT gearbox for its Saga and Iriz models.
Looking at things now, there’s a high chance that the Ertiga model that could be bearing Proton’s emblem will be based on the revised Ertiga Dreza model. Unveiled for the Indonesia market just last week, it’s essentially the Ertiga with all the bells and whistles.
So what do you think of our prediction? Head up the comments page and tell us if you agree or disagree on this.
[Image Source: Suzuki]