THE ROAD AHEAD FOR SUZUKI

Suzuki is slowly beginning to stand back up after the body blows it received from the economic collapse of 5 years ago. As the company gains balance on its feet and prepares to dust itself off, I fully expect it to rise to full height sooner rather than later. Truthfully, this is something I sense more than I know from being told, in part because Suzuki is keeping both marketing and product plans very much to itself—despite my trying to trick its PR staff into burping up info on tomorrow’s hardware. Damn professionals.

T e new V-Strom concept is appealing—and an important bike for the company—but Suzuki should aim higher. Punch it out to 1200cc and go for the Euro jugular!

They will say new product is coming and hint that this year’s celebration of 50 years on American soil is just the beginning. Of course. One popular theory is that Suzuki’s engineers are tapping their fingers on the desk and (not so) patiently waiting for the money guys to unclench. But I don’t believe it.

I think they’ve been hard at work already.

But on the small chance they’re looking for a little product direction, permit me to offer my services. Should I be given a turn at the drafting table, here’s what I would do.

A new GSX-R. Well, this is obvious, isn’t it? But rather than spread resources among the 600, 750, and 1000 variants, I’d go straight to the literbike and do the very best to beat BMW at its own HP4 game. And I would do it the Bavarian way: a stout base model for the masses and a technology demonstrator with a sticker to support it. Suzuki has done “limited editions” before; it’s time again. Of course, you would need aggressive development to catch and pass the other three Japanese brands, but it can be done. Suzuki has before. The element of surprise will work in Suzuki’s favor.

V-Strom 1200. We’re seeing and hearing interesting things about the reworked V-Strom 1000 due here in the fall , but if TL1000-based engine can be made bigger to compete with the 150-horsepower Ducati Multistrada and KTM 1190 Adventure, I say do it. Lead the Japanese in this category.

An SV650 replacement. This is my favorite drum to bang. There are few bikes in history that have such an ideal fun/forgiving ratio as the SV650, and by that I really mean the first generation of the bike. I resolutely do not mean the SFV650 (nee Gladius), which took the SV platform away from what it did best and showed only that marketing got the upper hand in the product-planning meetings. No manufacturer since has created a small bike with the poise, performance, and balance of the SV. (Hawk GT owners hold your pens. That was a great bike but the SV was better.)

The closest today is Triumph with the Street Triple. And while looking toward Hinckley, I think it would benefit Suzuki to take a Triumph-like approach, with a base model SV650 for the masses and an up-spec version with quality suspension, top-line brakes, maybe a bit more power. This “experts” model would have to be good enough to justify a large price differential, but with the right performance and personality, enthusiasts will line up. Oh, and make it an 800. After all, Yamaha’s going to need some competition for the tantalizing FZ-09 triple.

Granted, these are the more achievable solutions for Suzuki. What I think the company really needs, though, is a thunderclap kind of motorcycle. Let us not forget that Suzuki is the company that brought us the X-6 Hustler, the RE-5 rotary, the mighty GS1000/1100, the breathtaking original Katana, and the GSX-R—plus groundbreaking motocrossers.

Suzuki remains a lean, intellectually agile company that I think is willing to be aggressive once the money starts f owing again—though I’m hoping it took a risk and has begun spending already. It already announced plans to return to MotoGP in 2015. No company other than Ducati has built a true MotoGP race replica for sale to the public. Not Honda. Not Yamaha. Take a chance, Suzuki. Do it.

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