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New Suzuki NZ chief executive Gary Collins confident of business’ future in Whanganui

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Suzuki New Zealand chief executive Gary Collins inside the automobile parts warehouse in Whanganui. Photo / Bevan Conley

Suzuki New Zealand’s new chief executive is an old hand at the inner workings of the Japanese multinational.

Gary Collins grew up on a Taranaki dairy farm, attended Massey University in Palmerston North and then secured his first fulltime job as a marketing assistant at Suzuki.

Now, 30 years later, he’s taking on the top job at Suzuki New Zealand based in Whanganui and will continue in his role as Executive General Manager of Automobile.

He takes over from Tom Peck in the top job.

Collins said it was not the easiest time to step into the role with uncertainty about sales in the next six months and the size of the markets Suzuki operates within.

New Zealanders grappling with the high cost of living and higher interest rates would not be as prepared to splash out money on new cars.

But, Collins said, households would still have to replace vehicles and people may also decide to downsize from larger vehicles to more compact, cheaper-to-run models.

“That’s where Suzuki fits into the market really well.”

Suzuki’s range of models focused on affordability and the company was in a better position than higher-end automobile companies to cope with the tighter economic environment, he said.

The Suzuki Swift is the company’s highest-selling model range with a customer base that is two-thirds female. In 2023, Suzuki sold 3948 Swifts.

Next month the company will launch its latest Swift model.

Suzuki plans to make moves into the electric vehicle market in 2025.

Collins said changes around government incentives, such as dropping the clean car discount for electric vehicles and introduction of road user charges was causing some uncertainty in the market.

He expected higher demand for hybrid vehicles rather than a complete switchover to electric vehicle models.

“Obviously in New Zealand, some people are having to travel long distances … those hybrid models offer more versatility.”

Suzuki’s well-established Whanganui roots would not be moving anywhere under Collins.

The automobile business was established by Whanganui’s Coleman family in the 1960s and was later bought out by Suzuki Motor Corporation.

Recently Suzuki increased its parts storage facilities by about 25 per cent, reflecting the increase in volume of products, but also the confidence the business had to remain in Whanganui.

It currently employs 46 staff, all except one based in Whanganui.

“Our average staff tenure is around 13 years.”

Many vehicle brands performed well in the past few years but that growth had now eased, Collins said.

“The market was really booming a couple of years ago and that was little bit distorted as people were forced to be at home and were spending money on cars and boats.

“There is a bit of uncertainty as far as how long it’ll be before the market has a significant recovery.”

Last month, Suzuki recorded a 5.3 per cent market share in the automobile market.

Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.

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