A vehicle generation model is developed by an automaker for a typical lifespan of about 6 years. A facelift is introduced after three years with minor upgrades in order to keep the model competitive before the new generation model comes out as a replacement. So in a typical 6 years production period of a model, the first 3 years are for a pre-facelift and the next 3 years are for a facelift.
However, a model can sit stagnant in Pakistan for more than a decade or two without experiencing any sort of change. There are many instances where vehicles were unnecessarily dragged for an extended period of time, with Pak Suzuki leading the list of most such models. Mehran (2nd gen Alto) was dragged for nearly 30 years, MK-II Cultus was assembled for over 17 years, 5th gen Alto for over 12 years, while the company continues to drag the 7th gen Carry iterations (Ravi & Bolan) for over 40 years.
Now another Pak Suzuki model is approaching a decade of production run in our country, not to mention it has long been discontinued from the rest of the world. And it’s none other than the Wagon R tallboy hatchback.
Suzuki Wagon R that we have here is originally the second generation of the Maruti Wagon R which was produced between 2010 and 2018 in India and was replaced by the 3rd generation Wagon R in January 2019. But instead of India, Pak Suzuki sources the Wagon R parts & components from Indonesia where the 2nd gen Maruti Wagon R is available as Karimun Wagon R.
Funnily enough, even the Karimun Wagon R was discontinued in Indonesia in November 2021 due to slow sales. But according to Suzuki Indonesia, despite getting discontinued it will continue to produce Wagon R parts & CKDs for export markets as long as demand (in export markets) stays strong. Not to mention Pak Suzuki has been the biggest importer of Wagon R parts from Indonesia.
Even in Pakistan, Wagon R sales saw dramatic lows and extreme highs during the course of its roughly ten-year existence (and counting). It was launched in Pakistan in 2014 as a replacement for the 1000cc Alto. Compared to Maruti Suzuki in India, Pak Suzuki was almost 4 years late to introduce the Wagon R car in our country.
Initially, it saw a really hard time picking up sales and was able to surpass the average sales of its predecessor– the 5th gen Alto in FY2016-17, while its cumulative sales figures for the first three years were less than that of FY2016-17 alone. People never really liked the shape of the car and on top of that a huge list of missing features, as even the “fully loaded” VXL version came equipped with front 2 power windows only. And it misses out on airbags, ABS, automatic transmission, rear windshield wiper, roof rails, air-press, power outside mirrors, and reversing sensors, all of which were available in Indian and Indonesian-spec versions of this car.
The explosive growth of ride-hailing services in Pakistan in 2016 was the primary factor in the popularity of the Wagon R since many customers booked the vehicle solely for cab services. Sales of Suzuki Wagon R peaked in FY2018-19 after which its downfall started. In the below sales table, we have marked “poor sales” in red, “handsome sales” in green, and left “regular sales” in black.
Wagon R’s first real competition emerged from its stablemate, the 8th gen Suzuki Alto 660cc which was introduced in June 2019 as a replacement for the 30-year old 2nd gen Alto aka Mehran. As evident from the sales table above, the dip in Wagon R sales is evident with just 6,984 units sold in FY19-20 which is deplorable 78% less right after posting its highest-ever sales in FY18-19. Wagon R experienced a hopeless year in 2020 witnessing the lowest-ever monthly sales multiple times in that year.
Now as of the first 9 months of this fiscal year, Pak Suzuki has managed to sell only 5,022 units of Wagon R rendering a monthly sales average of just 558 units. It was also reported late last year that Pak Suzuki will discontinue the Wagon R in 2023 and is likely to carry on with the Cultus (Celerio) hatchback in the 1.0L segment as an immediate replacement of Wagon R hasn’t been planned. Although the company displayed a new Wagon R model at the 2022 Pakistan Auto Show (PAPS), a formal announcement of its discontinuation is yet to be made.
The main reason behind the decision is that as mentioned above, Pak Suzuki imports Wagon R CKD parts from Indonesia where the car was discontinued last year. Suzuki Indonesia was only supplying parts to Pakistan due to relatively high demand. But since the demand for new vehicles in our country has nosedived due to rising prices, higher car financing costs, and depleting purchase power of the masses, exporting a limited number of kits of a discontinued model doesn’t make much sense for Suzuki.
In India, the Wagon R entered its 3rd generation in 2019, but that model hasn’t been introduced in Indonesia yet, which means Pak Suzuki cannot launch the newer generation Wagon R here. It will probably be too expensive to introduce the Japanese Wagon R (that was showcased at PAPS) here, which is different from the Indian Wagon R, and won’t make much financial sense for the company.
Pak Suzuki, which enjoys a 52% market share has recently announced its worst-ever financial performance. The company is going through a turbulent period in the country as only the 660cc Alto is doing relatively well in sales whereas the rest of the lineup is witnessing a traumatic sales performance, mainly due to outrageously high price tags. The Wagon R when launched in 2014 was available in 3 variants and was priced as:
- VX: Rs 899,000
- VXR: Rs 1,049,000
- VXL: Rs 1,089,000
Today, the prices of Suzuki Wagon R variants in Pakistan are:
- VXR: Rs 3,214,000
- VXL: Rs 3,412,000
- AGS: Rs 3,741,000
With $1 valued at around Rs 101 in 2014, and hovering around Rs 285 in 2023, the price of Wagon R has hiked up by 213% against a 184% depreciation in currency value. Pak Suzuki claims a 60% localization in the case of Wagon R, however, the price impact has always been fully transferred to the customers, or more.
Pakistan’s import-dependent auto industry is struggling to thrive in the midst of government restrictions on non-essential imports. The Wagon R’s survival rests primarily on imports, just like any other “locally assembled” vehicle. We’ll have to wait to find out whether local automakers (read assemblers) will ultimately equip their vendor network to supply them with the necessary parts locally.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com