Life with Suzuki Baleno – Month 9 of 42
Another month that has been light on mileage means that Iain Robertson has an opportunity to reflect on the Suzuki dealer network, not least his supplying dealer and a couple of others from Yorkshire.
One of the most important aspects of the car buying process is being sure that you are able to work with a dealership that, most likely, will only see you once a year for a scheduled service. Quite how the good ones do their job has always amazed me, especially as staff changes can mean that the person who sold you the car initially, or who changes the oil in it, may have been replaced.
My Baleno-supplying dealer is Cropleys, located at Frith Bank, just a couple of miles west of the Lincolnshire port of Boston. A family-run dealership for the past fifty years, it has been a Suzuki centre for almost twenty of them. Although it should not be a source of amazement, despite the fact that many brands (most notably Skoda, of late) have rid themselves of the family-owned enterprises, in their race to join the corporate sector, Suzuki GB invests much of its time and effort nurturing its dealer network and promoting actively the greater values and sense of purpose that these family concerns convey.
Trust me, I am glad for that, as there is always a competent, customer-caring person, with whom I can speak (infrequently, I shall grant you), rather than an ill-trained, knowledge-lacking monkey employed by dealerships that only want to supply major firms. The private car buyer, which does not but ought to include the one-man band and smaller businesses, finds solace in places like Cropleys Suzuki.
In fact, this aspect could not have been underscored more assuredly than when a colleague (Rob Marshall) and me undertook a small video production exercise for Suzuki GB and its latest Swift model earlier in June. The ‘voxpop’ (voice of the people) is something that we major on. Hence, we set-up an opportunity at both Leeds-based, Luscombe Suzuki, and North Yorkshire-based, Batchelors of Ripon, to interview Suzuki owners in a candid, only lightly-edited and honest manner. The feedback is not merely welcomed by Suzuki GB but also its entire dealer network, as a similar exercise we carried out for the company on the Suzuki S-Cross model (almost three years ago) was shown in its raw, minimally edited form at the firm’s annual dealer conference.
In all instances (and it is worth highlighting that there is very little variance in opinions stated in 2014, to what were stated by different owners last month), the consensus is that Suzuki dealers value their customers. They work with them, to retain their loyalty, which is a very hard-won commodity. They provide faultless service, with an all-important smile. They ensure that costs are maintained at affordable levels. They also minimise problems and resolve them, thereby ensuring that the customer departs in a confident frame of mind.
In many ways, these might be regarded as ‘old-fashioned’ ethics…yet, there is no earthly harm in that and I am flaming certain that, were a few other franchises to operate to similar standards, the car business might possess a somewhat better reputation thjan it does. Having said that, since Suzuki GB topped the elusive 40,000 annual sales mark last year, it is abundantly clear that it is perpetrating policies that work dependably for its network and Suzuki GB should be applauded for such stoicism.
At the end of the day, I have become a Suzuki customer on the back of that gleaned knowledge, even though it helps that, as a privileged car critic, I gain insights to products, notably the latest versions, that the consumer does not ordinarily. Intriguingly, the Suzuki consumer profile is not the same as Skoda’s used to be, even though both brands have held a ‘value’ status in their time, which the former is maintaining, while the latter feeds the VW corporate machine. Suzuki is lauded for its high engineering standards, whereas Skoda was always and invariably over-engineered, an aspect that it has lost to VW.
While I am over 60 years old and (potentially) perfect Suzuki fodder, unlike Skoda that has followed the company car route slavishly, its customer profile is very broad, encompassing young professionals, singles, families of all age ranges and older people too. In many respects, it is a profile that Honda envies, seldom achieving its aims of reducing the average age of its customers below 56 years. It helps that the product possesses a youthful zestiness to it.
As to my Baleno, I have managed to put some (not many) miles on it this month and I am looking forwards to putting some more on the odometer over the course of the next few weeks, which will incorporate a house move. I never tire of slipping behind the steering wheel to enjoy even a quick spin to town and I cannot see my pleasure diminishing in any way…until the new Swift Sport hoves into view at least!
£193 month eight finance payment
3,279 miles on odometer (£30 spent on fuel to top-up the tank)
(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, now removed until November)
(£200 for incident damage repair, front bumper).