Suzuki hasn't posted profit in Europe since 2008 -report

FRANKFURT Sat Feb 2, 2013 11:50am EST

FRANKFURT Feb 2 (Reuters) - Japanese carmaker Suzuki has failed to post a profit for its European operations in four years and cannot say when it will cease posting losses, its regional chief told Germany's WirtschaftsWoche.

"2008 was the last time we were profitable - we haven't been in the black ever since. If that continues for much longer than I am in serious difficulties," said Suzuki Europe chief Takanori Suzuki.

The head of the Japanese carmaker, which is in arbitration proceedings with erstwhile partner Volkswagen, aims by 2016 to lift sales in Europe back up to 300,000 vehicles.

The magazine did not provide a current comparison figure.

According to data from the European auto industry association ACEA, Suzuki sales fell 13.4 percent last year to 154,446 vehicles in the 27-member European Union as well as the three European Free Trade Association countries -- Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.

Its share of that market fell 10 basis points to 1.2 percent.

Suzuki operates a plant in Hungary, where it built roughly 155,000 cars in 2012 out of a possible capacity of 220,000 per year, according to the magazine.

On a Suzuki Hungary website, the company has written that capacity even reached 300,000 in 2008, following several years of expansion. That very year it decided to return to building cars only in two shifts, and made 1,200 employees redundant.

The Europe chief said he was not sure whether there would be enough spare capacity to build Fiats and Opels once the plant begins supplying markets in Australia, Africa and South America as well.

"It could be close," he said. "I can't say whether there is enough capacity to build the cars of our cooperation partners."

Fiat has the Sedici crossover built there off a Suzuki SX4 platform, while Opel and its UK sister Vauxhall have the Agila manufactured there off a Suzuki Splash platform.

Both the Sedici and Agila are niche models for the two brands.

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