Does Suzuki Hate Small GSX-R Bikes?

Yamaha YZF-R125, R25, R3. Honda CBR125 and the rest of the funky bunch. Quarter-liter Ninjas and the Ninja 300 bearing the Kawasaki emblem. Suzuki GSX-R… wait a bit, Suzuki what? I could very well stop here and let you continue, but I guess it’s worth talking about this absence.
Why isn’t Suzuki not listing a small-displacement GSX-R in its line-up remains a mystery and it’s somehow surprising that nobody seems to be bothered by it. The small-displacement market is booming all over the world and even manufacturers which are famous for delivering only big bikes have changed the way they see this segment… but so far, it looks like the House of Hamamatsu is not too eager to jump in the game.

Several of these manufacturers have teamed up with big local names, to develop and produce bikes for the small-displacement niche. BMW joined hands with TVS, KTM and Bajaj have already gotten it going for some time now, while names such as Harley-Davidson or Triumph are making inroads in India on their own. Also on their own are Honda, Yamaha, and the rest of the Japanese makers, even if they have established very strong footholds in the Asian region.

Still, Suzuki is the only big manufacturer that doesn’t seem too eager to deliver a small-displacement, entry-point version of their acclaimed Gixxer machine. The long history and the success these bikes have attained across all classes and types of racing events are more than enough drive to back the launch of a small-displacement line-up.

Even two models in this segment could mean a big plus for Hamamatsu. Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki have even split their small-displacement class between the Asian and the Western markets. While the Asian regions are still enjoying the quarter-liter machines, Europe and North America are seeing the 300cc-class bikes in showrooms. The recipe seems to be very lucrative for these guys, so Suzuki replicating it could mean bigger business.

Truth is Suzuki is recovering after quite a hard period, with the bankruptcy story in the US and the re-organizing of the whole business model. Having the kite flying after such maneuvers takes time and a lot of care, while money must be spent wisely.

Probably this extra care is the reason for Suzuki not adding solid updates to their bikes, at least not the way the competition did. Even more, Suzuki is becoming a big name in the limited edition business, as such motorcycles have been coming from Hamamatsu on an almost predictable basis. That is, cool liveries for off-the-mill bikes offered for only a small premium over the price of standard machines. Even more, they even threw in some cool anodized parts and Yoshimura silencers to make the bikes more attractive, even though they were not the newest stuff in the class.

While a degree of precaution and a dash of commercial paranoia are completely understandable, a time comes when certain risks have to be taken lest another competitor takes advantage of a particular opportunity.

I am positive that a lot of young riders would scour the earth for the last penny only to be able to take a small-displacement shiny GSX-R125 or GSX-R300 home. The 600cc sport bike class is already fighting its own war and you can read a more detailed analysis in this editorial on the future of supersport-class machines.

Honda, BMW, Kawasaki, Erik Buell Racing and more are not that keen to make significant financial and development efforts to deliver-state-of the-art middleweight bikes, but are doing their best to come up with the best small-displacement machines for the new generation of riders. I am sure that Suzuki doesn’t need me to tell this to them, as I expect that they only know too well how the markets have evolved during the last 5 years or so.

I really hope that someone at Suzuki is planning small GSX-R machines as I write this piece. The youngsters who dream about making it big in the motorcycle racing world really deserve such bikes, and they are ready for them, too. There is no better proof than seeing all the big sport bike manufacturers heading in this direction. Even smaller names, such as EBR, who have themselves passed some really rough times after the separation from H-D, have struck a deal with Indian bike giant Hero and are envisioning going small-displacement.

In the end, it’s hard for me to understand what kind of sign Suzuki is waiting for to start building small Gixxers. Brand and series popularity – checked. Market for such bikes – checked. Public eager to spend money on these motorcycles – just look around. When do we get to see a 300cc Gixxer? This answer lies buried deep in some (hopefully not dusty) files at Hamamatsu.
And why not a small Busa, too!


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