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Suzuki Weekend – Adventures in Marketing; The Daewoo Years

Jim Brennan November 10, 2012 Weekend Edition 20 Comments

In 2001, General Motors bought most of the bankrupt Daewoo Motor Company assets to form GM Daewoo. The new company started operations on October 17, 2002, with GM and its partners Suzuki and SAIC holding a stake of 66.7% with investments of $400 million. For Suzuki of America, this meant that several former Daewoo models would be rebadged Suzuki models, while the Chevrolet Nameplate would find home on the rest of the Daewoo model line around the world. Suzuki would soon offer new models to the American Public, but were they any good?

Let’s start with the Suzuki Forenza, offered as both a sedan and a wagon from 2004. This model range was slotted between the Suzuki Aerio (an actual Suzuki!) and a larger Daewoo model named the Verona, which we will get to later. This was a new Daewoo Nubira, and was marketed around the world under various brands; The Buick Excelle, Chevrolet Lacetti, Chevrolet Optra, Daewoo Nubira, Holden Viva and the Suzuki Forenza. Quite a bit of branding going on here. The US model line features the 2.0 L 4-cylinder E-TEC II made by Holden, developing a maximum power of 126 horsepower at 5600 rpm. Driving fun? Forget about it. Durability? None that I know of, but they sold very well everywhere else except the US.

The Suzuki Reno was simply a Nubira Hatchback with different front, and rear styling. The same uninteresting driving experience, lack of any determinable reliability, and sub par economy when compared to their contemporaries doomed this hatch even before they were sold here. The Forenza and Reno were discontinued within the 2008 model year, and the Reno has been replaced by the Suzuki SX4 Hatchback and Sedan.

Moving on to the other Daewoo sold as a Suzuki, the Verona. This was a replacement to the Daewoo Leganza, a car that was suppose to compete with other mid-sized cars such as the Camry, Accord, or the Altima. Introduced for the 2004 Model Year, the single most intriguing feature about this car is the engine, a Daewoo-developed XK6 inline-6 engine, which was a DOHC 24V design, producing 155 hp at 5800 rpm, and 177 lb·ft of torque at 4000 rpm. Other than that, it was a rather forgettable design, and was soon discontinued in the states after 2006.

So do you think that any of these Suzukis really deserve your attention, or should they be confined to the scrap heap along with the rest of the Daewoos?

Image Credits: Wikipedia

  • boostedlegowgn

    Too much Dae, not enough Woo.

  • John Nevard

    I guess if you're going to copy lacklustre Japanese styling, it helps to copy lacklustre Japanese styling from the current decade.

    I say this as someone who really quite admires the styling of the first generation Kia Magentis for it's unabashed targeting of the older folks. They really look like something Rover could have made around the same time period, if they had had the wit.

    The Holden Epica at the bottom is actually supposed to be quite a good car, if you're into nasty little compacts. Civilized. Beats the hell out of a Camry or a ES.

    • Devin

      Believe it or not, that's lackluster Italian styling. The Reno and fair Verona were Italdesign and the Forenza was Pininfarina.

      Actually, I find the Reno to be pretty handsome, though the transmission in the one I drove was vague as hell.

      • Sjalabais

        I have never really understood how Italian design houses sometimes churn out the most forgettable soap designs. You get what you pay for? Or the job is done in-house, the principal just pays for the name?

        • Devin

          It's more likely a get what you pay for situation. A lot of the smaller brands they do stuff for don't have the budget or staff to do much styling work in-house, so they work with external studios. I don't think Daewoo did any styling work in house, in fact.

          For those external studios, it's revenue, and sometimes they will use older design studies and just adapt them, making it a relatively easy job.

          • Sjalabais

            It's a sad, sad world.

      • Martynas

        <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/07/Daewoo_Matiz_front_20080320.jpg/800px-Daewoo_Matiz_front_20080320.jpg&quot; width="500">

        I guess this happened because, say Italdesign had a habit of shopping their rejected designs around, as was the case with hateful first gen Daewoo Matiz – a car that never made it Stateside in that shape and form but eventually became Chevy Spark. The actual design was proposed for the mid-90's Fiat Cinquecento but was scrapped only to become the aforementioned Matiz. Loved how Daewoo pimped it's "Italian design" (at least here in Yurp) all the while "forgetting" to mention that it was the rejected design proposition for some other car. Funny how Chery seemed so impressed by that rejected design, that it basically cloned the darn thing and called the unfortunate outcome the Chery QQ.

        Leganza/Verona on the other hand, despite looking as attractive as an oatmeal, at least in one tiny way was genuinely interesting – I, for one, can't recall any other car that had inline six mounted transversely in front.

        • Perc

          Volvo has had a few transverse i6's over the years, starting with the S80.

          • sporty88au

            If you go back further, there were the Australian-market Austin Kimberly/Tasman and the related UK-market Austin 2200. They're almost as forgettable as the Daewoo.

        • Vavon

          <img src="http://www.all-car-brands.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/fiat_lucciola_italdesign.jpg&quot; width="500'/"> The Lucciola would have been a great little 3 door Fiat, definetely better then the Seicento…
          <img src="http://gomotors.net/pics/Fiat/fiat-seicento-abarth-02.jpg&quot; width="500/">
          Cinquecento (left) & Seicento, the Cinquecento replacement (right)

          • dave

            you prick that sei does definately look way better than the daewoo

            I really like the way it looks and drives.

            It's a really nippy car, very nimble and always wants more revs

            it's more fun to drive than my other cars celica st165, golf 2 gti 8v, mercedes C

            • Vavon

              Your language speaks volumes!

        • Sjalabais

          A friend of mine had one of these in gold, which he bought cheap and abused heavily. I borrowed it while he was on vacation for two weeks. Everything you could touch was oozing crap, and the engine sounded like a broken sewing machine. Still, it was very light and fun to throw around corners, all the while getting 4-5 litres/100km. Autobahn-maximum was 140km/h though, and that was just scary. My fearless mother did 180km/h in a comparably sized and loaded Renault Twingo, so the Daewoo disappointed.

        • dukeisduke

          That looks like something I'd catch on a rod and reel.

  • bhtooefr

    I still say that that I6 could be interesting in something better. Maybe a Miata… IIRC, it's lighter and shorter than the stock Miata 1.8 liter engine, although height would be a real problem.

    That said, there's no real point, when you can put an SBC in. But, still…

  • Sjalabais

    I didn't even know that Daewoo's were sold as Suzuki's in the US. But respectless circussing around with brand names, without the tiniest bit of understanding the value of brand building – GM trademark. Not surprised.

  • mr. Smee

    When I went to Turkey a few years ago a young Turkish guy asked what I drove. I said a Chevrolet. His jaw dropped, he couldn't believe a "wealthy" North American would drive a piece of crap like a Chevrolet. The next day we drove past an Ankara Chevrolet dealership and I saw what he meant. Not a Tahoe or Silverado in site, lots of re-badged Daewoo though.

  • If memory serves, what became the Daewoo Leganza was first proposed by ItalDesign as a treatment for a new Jaguar. It was named Kensington, rather presumptively.

  • Van_Sarockin

    They seem like decent little transportation modules. And it sounds like they shipped some of the best engine/drivetrain/body style versions to the US. Chain drive DOHC, you say? A shame since I think the perception was that these cars slotted in beneath Hyundai, if they were noticed at all.

  • rusty

    Esteem – what you lose if you bought one…