One of Australia’s cheapest and most popular light vehicles is about to exit the market, with no direct replacement available.
Stock of the pre-facelift Suzuki Baleno is dwindling, with the final batch having arrived in May, and the updated model revealed in February this year cannot be sold here because unlike its predecessor it won’t meet recently implemented ADR 85/00 design rules.
Based on the current run-rate, stock of the outgoing Baleno will be available in dealers for just a few more months, with the final 300 GL auto-based models to be called Shadow Editions, fitted with black wheels, a body kit, and some badges and decals.
It seems that, unlike the pre-update Baleno, the updated model with new looks and a more modern interior has been designed to sell only in markets such as India – a market where Maruti Suzuki is the dominant player – and Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The pre-update Baleno was also built in India as well, but with an eye on exports to parts of the world such as Australia and the UK.
Moving forward, these more affluent regions will instead rely on the more familiar Suzuki Swift to carry the can for them solo, hopefully helped by greater factory supply. The Swift is more stylish and sophisticated, but also more expensive and less capacious than the Baleno.
“Going into 2023 with that particular segment, we won’t have the opportunity to bring that car [Baleno] in,” said Suzuki Australia general manager Michael Pachota, who added the supply of Swifts from Japan was projected to improve to at least partly fill the gap in sales.
“As Swift supply gets better, we can see it taking more share. We won’t necessarily be the same volume but we believe with the value of the product, we think we can retain a lot… of that segment,” Mr Pachota added.
While it started off slowly upon launch in 2016, the then-returning Baleno became a bit of a surprise top-seller for Suzuki Australia, ending up as the market’s second most-popular light car after the Chinese MG 3.
Neither of this pair are or were the most cutting-edge cars, but unlike more high-tech rivals such as the Toyota Yaris and Mazda 2, they stayed cheap – in the case of the Suzuki Baleno, under $20,000 drive-away. They also became a common sight on rental fleets.
In fact, to the end of June the Baleno is easily Suzuki Australia’s top-seller (4597 sales, up nearly 120 per cent), with the better-known Vitara and Swift suffering stock shortages. It also owns nearly 20 per cent of the Light Car segment.
Final implementation of the ADR side impact policy – which had scope to grandfather in some existing designs – came into effect on vehicles produced after November 1 last year, and killed off other models such as the Mitsubishi Mirage; the Lexus IS, RC and CT; and the Alpine A110.