Total Motorcycle’s interview with Suzuki Motorcycle Canada:
by Andrea Le Pard and Mike Le Pard.
Suzuki has a new name for itself in the motorcycle industry and that is the builder of fast and powerful motorcycles. Suzuki saw the future and ran with it. With the introduction of the GSX-R series sport bikes, Suzuki is on top of the mountain in sales.
Total Motorcycle could not miss the opportunity to talk with the top Suzuki Canada representatives at the 2004 Calgary Motorcycle show on January 9th and 10th, 2003. Here is what they told us in the short interview:
The biggest news was the release of the new Suzuki GS500F and Suzuki V-Strom 650 motorcycles for 2004. While the Suzuki GSX-R600 and Suzuki GSX-R750 received major upgrades. And the first big bike from the Kawasaki/Suzuki partnership, the 2004 Suzuki Marauder 1600 (Kawasaki Meanstreak) was also there at the show. One bike that was there surprised us, the Suzuki SV650 standard, since there was no rumor of it coming to Canada to be sold here in 2004.
The GS500F was a hit at the show. Suzuki said more people were interested in the GS500F and the V-Strom 650 than any other model at all there shows across Canada. The Suzuki GS500E that the GS500F is based off is a top selling motorcycle and Suzuki didn’t want to really mess with a good thing and make the GS500E something different. That is why they made a variation of the GS500E, the GS500F. With stunning new sportbike looks, sportier riding position and a go-fast attitude the GS500F looked like a real winner for Suzuki. The GS500E wasn’t fully left out this yet, it did get a black frame and black painted engine to enhance it’s good looks. With the GS500F being only a few hundred dollars more than the GS500E it will be hard to keep stock on the showroom floor, just like the GS500E.
Suzuki said that they saw the market for a good sportbike that is also a good starter bike. Sportbikes have a very strong market share next to cruisers and Suzuki knows this all too well. Like the GS500E, the GS500F is powered by the ultra reliable four-stroke, 487cc parallel-twin engine that offers good torque and horsepower for its size. Either the GS500E or GS500F will make a great advanced starter bike as many riding schools have learned.
Another totally new model for 2004 was the Suzuki V-Strom 650. The V-Strom 650 is based off the popular V-Strom 1000 which won Standard of the Year in Cycle World 2002. Other than the engine size, weight and decals, it is hard to tell the 650 apart from the 1000 since it shares so much of the 1000’s parts. Sitting on the V-Strom 650 one finds it very comfortable and a very upright position with lots of storage room not usually found on a 650cc bike. It comes with a sporty front fairing to deflect the wind and riding position is designed with comfort in mind. Seat height is set at a low 32.5 inches (825mm) and the saddle blends smoothly into the ample 5.8-gallon (22.5 liter) fuel tank. Wind protection for the V-Strom 650 is particularly unique. Designed to reduce turbulence for riders of all shapes and sizes, an adjustable windscreen covers a vertical range of 50mm and can be angled differently as its raised or lowered. There are not many adventure tourer on the market right now and the V-Strom has given Suzuki a big lead.
As we made our way around the showroom, we were surprised to the the Suzuki SV650 there. Canada has had the SV650S for a few years now, but there was no rumor of the SV650 standard coming to Canada for 2004. Suzuki will indeed be selling the SV650 in Canada for 2004. We think it to be a very wise move as the SV650S has been a very good seller for them since it was first introduced in North America. Suzuki told us that they were worried about the sales competition between the SV650 and SV650S in Canada since Canada is not a very big global motorcycle market. Demand has been so high to bring it to Canada that they are hoping it does well and does not hurt sales of the SV650S. The SV650 is a few hundred dollars less than the SV650S and offers a more comfortable upright touring position but no wind fairing.
In 2003 Suzuki introduced the Suzuki Burgman 650 (AN650K) scooter. Since the Burgman 650’s introduction nothing has changed except that manufacturers now know there is a big market for large and powerful scooter models. Suzuki took and chance bringing the Burgman to North America and it has paid off for them. They are now looking at selling the Suzuki Burgman 400 (AN400K) here in North America as well for 2004/2005. We learned that the Burgman is an extremely popular scooter in Europe and comes in different engine sizes, 125, 250, 400 and 650cc. They even have Suzuki Burgman exclusive dealerships it sells that well there.
The Burgman was designed for touring long distances and has a luggage capacity to rival Honda’s Gold Wing. Suzuki is targeting the “Gold Wing” market whose riders are getting older and have difficulty riding very large and very heavy touring bikes. Even though the Burgman is big (for a scooter) is it still good around town. With a cost effective price of both the Burgman 650 and 400 models it will allow both young and old to purchase them. A really neat feature is the “high/low” push button gearing that is great for people that want to ride a motorcycle but are intimidated of working a clutch.
The newly upgraded 2004 Suzuki GSX-R600 was also at the show. Lighter, better-handling, stronger, it delivers the best power-to-weight ratio in its class. With performance features straight from our factory racing department, the newest GSX-R600 features titanium valves, inverted forks, and radial-mount brakes and master cylinder. Add to that an aggressive new aerodynamic package, a powerful new digital fuel-injection system and a state-of-the-art engine management system with even more power than before. The GSXR600 continues the winning line of 600 sportbikes from Suzuki.
Suzuki’s 2004 GSX-R750 was also attracting quite a bit of attention too. Since the beginning, the GSX-R750 has been about overall balance of handling and engine performance. For 2004, the GSX-R750 takes that balance to an entirely new level with an improved compact, lightweight design that creates an awesome combination of handling, performance and style. There are not many 750cc sportbikes on the market, it seems the 750 class isn’t as popular as it once was. But Suzuki keeps improving the GSX750R as they see it as a great compromise between the power of a 1000cc sportbike and the light weight and versatility of the 600cc sportbike. The GSX-R750 is quite light and only weight a tad more than the 600cc sportbikes but offers more power.
It is very interesting to see what the Suzuki/Kawasaki relationship is providing customers. Now they have the Suzuki Marauder 1600 to thank for that successful relationship. Styling for the new Marauder is pure hotrod, from the aggressively styled, oversize headlight to the sleek 4.5- gallon fuel tank. Completing its sporting chic exterior is the sculpted rear fender with exotic-looking taillight treatment and multi-reflector turn signals. It is good to see that even though the Suzuki Marauder 1600 is basically the Kawasaki 1600 Meanstreak that Suzuki has the freedom to style the bike as they see fit.
Suzuki is on a roll with their new models and company outlook. The Suzuki/Kawasaki relationship will be very interesting to watch in the future and we look forward to seeing more cross-developed models soon.
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