Explaining Southern California's economy

Suzuki is ending auto sales in the U.S., distributor declaring bankruptcy

Suzuki has decided to abandon the hyper-competitive U.S. market, after yet another month of dismal sales.

I've been arguing for a while now that at least one seriously underperforming carmaker is going to exit the U.S. market. October U.S. auto sales gave me an opportunity to revisit this issue and again name the two most likely candidates: Mitsubishi or Suzuki.

Well, Suzuki it is. The company announced Monday that it's ending vehicle sales in the United States. But it's sticking with motorcycle, ATV, and "marine boat sales," Reuters reports. Its U.S. distributor, American Suzuki Motor Corp., plans to declare bankruptcy.

Suzuki has a respectable lineup of vehicles, but it isn't even remotely competitive on sales in the U.S. — it sold barely more than 2,000 cars and trucks in October and ended the month with a 0.2 percent market share. That's almost statistically insignificant and a complete disaster for a mass-market automaker. I haven't been able to confirm it, but I don't think the company has a single remaining dealer in the Los Angeles area. 

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October auto sales: It was a good month for just about everybody

Ford And GM Report Large Drops In Monthly Sales

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Ford saw fairly weak year-over-years sales improvements for October but still hung into its number two spot in the ferociously competitive U.S. market.

October U.S. auto sales are in the books, as every carmaker who sells vehicles has now reported.

Some of the notables were Chrysler, with a 10.2 percent increase over last year, its best October since 2007; Volkswagen, with a 20.4 percent surge from last year; and Toyota, whose nearly 16 percent uptick year-over-year shows that the biggest Japanese automaker is poised to regain the market share it lost to General Motors and Ford after the tsunami and earthquake last year.

The real story is how tightly bunched GM, Ford, and Toyota are in terms of U.S. market share. They aren't separated by much more than a point or two: GM has about 18 percent, Ford has 15-and-a-half; and Toyota has about 14. 

That's more than a third of the market right there. The remaining two-thirds is being fought over, at various price levels, by no less than 17 automakers. Okay, you can take Ferrari and Maserati out of the competition — neither marque sells more than 300 cars a month. But other companies are aiming to compete and compete vigorously, if the world's most competitive auto market. 

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CODA Automotive makes the case for the Very Simple Electric Car

CODA-Ext-1

Nate Napierala

The CODA electric car looks...just like any other compact. And that's a selling point.

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CODA

Wind power, meet electric car. You might want to be careful about straying too far from home with the CODA sedan, but range is good, at about 100 miles per charge.

CODA-Engine

CODA

Electric car engines are models of simplicity. You'll save money on maintenance.

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CODA

Need a charge? There are stations through the Southland, plus smartphone apps to help you find them.

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CODA

This is the upscale interior trim package. Not a fancy car, but there's a place for that,

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CODA

No gas required.

CODA-Center

CODA

Not your father dealership. In fact, it isn't even a store. It's an "Experience Center" in an upscale Beverly Hills mall.

CODA-Map

CODA

Think EVs are only good for short hops? CODA says you can do better than that. This map is at the company's Century City Experience Center.

CODA-LA River

CODA

A test drive took the CODA fleet to the historic L.A. River.

CODA-Battery

CODA

It's what makes the magic happen: CODA's battery pack.

CODA-Charger

CODA

If you have an EV, you need to get used to looking for these. CODA keeps them in the parking garage and keeps the cars juiced up for test drives.

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CODA

It really is as simple as plugging the thing in.

CODA-Back

Nate Napierala

One car, one name, and very simple, startup view of the future of driving.


Let me draw a picture for you of the electric car market, circa autumn 2012. At the high end, you have Tesla Motors, selling or not selling, depending on your patience with the startup's delivery schedule, an all-electric Roadster, priced over $100,000; and an all-electric sedan, the Model 2, priced anywhere from about $50,000 to upwards of $100,000, depending on how you spec it out.

Then there's Nissan's Leaf, which can be be had for less than $30,000, once you get finished with various credits. The Ford Focus EV is in the same ballpark, around $30,000 once the tax credits kick in.

The Mitsubishi MiEV, even farther down the ladder, is yours for just over $20,000. But it's bare-bones.

You can lease, but not buy, the Honda Fit EV for around $400 per month. 

Pretty much everything else is some type of hybrid or plug-in hybrid, so you don't get pure, zero-emissions, all-electric motoring.

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