Suzuki’s goal: 10 percent share

Posted on Written by Theresa Nicholson

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Suzuki Marine has unveiled a 4-cylinder, 200-hp 4-stroke, pumping more energy into the industry’s development of high-horsepower engines that are lighter and more fuel-efficient than first-generation models.

The DF200A — the “A” identifies the engine as a second-generation product — made its debut at the company’s annual new product introduction and business meeting at the Ocean Reef Club June 2-4 in Key Largo, Fla. It’s Suzuki’s first 4-cylinder inline 200-hp 4-stroke. It weighs 498 pounds, more than 12 percent lighter than the company’s V-6 200.

The 200-hp Suzuki V-6 will remain in the lineup, along with the 175-, 225-, 250- and 300-hp models, says David Greenwood, technical guru and product planning manager at Suzuki Marine America. The new engine allows boaters to choose an inline 4-cylinder with power similar to the V-6.

“Each [size and type of] boat has an engine that is appropriate to it,” he says. “Some boats will need to stay with the 175 so they won’t be overpowered.”

Suzuki’s intended markets for the DF200A are saltwater bay boats of 20 to 22 feet and twin-outboard offshore boats, Greenwood says. The company also will target the freshwater fishing markets of Canada and the northern United States. “Multispecies” boats and lightweight aluminum boats are ideal fits for the DF200A, he says. Suzuki representatives at the conference said the DF200A also is designed for larger pontoon and deckboats.

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The engine was available for testing on the Key West 21 center console, Twin Vee 31 catamaran and SeaVee 37. In all, 12 boats were available for in-water testing with a variety of Suzuki outboards. The DF200A is expected to be available in the fall. Suzuki has not released a price.

Product innovation and commitment to the U.S. market have emerged as priorities during Suzuki Marine America’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration, which kicked off at the Key Largo meeting. “Our goal is continued innovation and 10 percent market share by 2017,” Suzuki Marine America president Takuya Sato says. Suzuki sponsored three days of new-product introductions and industry networking at the 2,500-acre resort.

Suzuki’s 2013 marine sales, highlighted at the conference, showed the first true signs of solid recovery since the recession. Although sales numbers have slowly crept upward, the 2013 numbers were the first to exceed those of 2008. Suzuki sold 12,500 of the 150,000 units that were sold across the industry last year. “If you look at the numbers, we’re definitely moving toward that 10 percent goal,” public relations director Rick Hauser says.

The DF200A was available for testing on the Key West 21 center console and other boats in Key Largo, Fla.

The DF200A was available for testing on the Key West 21 center console and other boats in Key Largo, Fla.

“Suzuki’s edge in the industry has always been innovation,” says Gus Blakely, Suzuki manager of planning and sales development. “Suzuki is constantly searching to do things better and to give the customers what they want.”

Suzuki invited 400 boatbuilders, dealers and media representatives to the meeting at the Ocean Reef Club. The 69-year-old, member-owned club boasts a 175-slip marina and access to boating and fishing throughout the Keys. Conferees came from across the United States, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, California, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Canada, Japan and other countries.

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The new design features a 175-cubic-inch “big block” and a higher compression ratio for greater acceleration and low-end torque, Suzuki says. The engine boasts Suzuki’s lean burn technology and knock, O2 and water detection sensor systems, allowing boaters to monitor and control internal engine operations. The engine’s semidirect air intake system provides cool air directly to the engine’s long track tuned intake manifold.

The engine is designed to breathe efficiently with Suzuki’s variable valve timing system, with twin intake and exhaust valves for each cylinder. By allowing the engine to breathe cooler air, acceleration and top-end speed are improved, Suzuki says. Suzuki factory testing reported a 1.5 percent improvement in top-end speed and a 12 percent improvement in zero-to-30-mph acceleration, compared with competitive models, the company says.

Company representatives said at the Florida conference that another contributing factor in the new engine’s improved performance numbers is the 10.3-to-1 compression ratio. By increasing the compression of the fuel/air mixture by 9.7 percent, Suzuki engineers noted an improved power output from the 175-cubic-inch displacement DOHC powerhead.

Roger Dunshee, owner and founder of Twin Vee Catamarans in Fort Pierce, Fla., brought his new 31-footer to Key Largo. The cat was available for testing with twin DF200As. “I was very impressed with the new 4-stroke 200,” Dunshee says. “We do a lot of Suzukis, and this is without question the strongest 200 to become available.”

Dunshee was able to get the boat up to 47 mph. “From what I’ve seen, the engine is faster and stronger,” he says. “It looks like they will also get 34 percent better fuel efficiency than [with Suzuki’s] V-6.”

Dunshee says he designed the new Twin Vee 31 for twin 300-hp Suzukis. “I never believed that a 200 would push it the way this one does,” he says. “I was pleased with the efficiency of the hull, to run with an engine that size. It is a good pairing. It gives the buyer an impressive, inexpensive package — terrific performance at a great price.”

Dunshee tested the Twin Vee with only one of the DF200As running to simulate a problem scenario. “I was still able to get the boat running at 20 mph, which is a real good outlook for offshore fishermen,” he says. “Usually if you lose one engine, you can’t get over 5 mph. With just one 200, you could still get home with reasonable speed.”

Dunshee estimates that the Twin Vee 31 with twin Suzuki DF200As will cost $130,000.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue.

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