2009 Suzuki Equator: A Pickup for Suzuki
Suzuki Goes to Nissan for a Truck
Looking at Suzuki‘s new Equator, introduced at the Chicago auto show, you can see a Nissan Frontier shape. This isn’t an accident or a copycat design, as Nissan will build the Equator for Suzuki. Suzuki has a stronger image among buyers of ATVs, marine engines, and motorcycles than they do with people looking for cars and trucks. A compact pickup seems natural for a brand selling toys that need to be towed, especially as their toys have terrific reputations for quality and value. Suzuki won’t sell enough Equators to justify creating and building a pickup of their own, but partnering gets them a strong product at a price they can afford.
Officially, we haven’t yet seen the production Equator (on sale until fall 2008), as Suzuki presented three concepts in Chicago. Each highlighted another branch of Suzuki’s recreational business, carrying Suzuki ATVs and motorcycles and hauling a boat with Suzuki engines. Supporting the relationship between Suzuki cars and trucks, Suzuki’s Gene Brown drove on stage on their V-Strom motorcycle. And in the Windy City in a February snowstorm, images of warm-weather outdoor activities were all the more compelling. Suzuki linked the two sides of the company and demonstrated why a truck can be a sensible addition.
The concepts should inspire customizers and Suzuki’s planning teams, looking for possible special editions and factory-backed accessories. Suzuki showed the Equator being used to maximizing free time, giving it a fun image from the get-go. Equator has a solid foundation, if a weak name, and a team behind it with a clear sense of what buyer to target and a good road map for getting there.
Three Concepts, Three Lifestyles
The RMZ-4 crew cab was “designed to match Suzuki’s performance-oriented motocross motorcycles” and ready to tackle any desert terrain, with bright racing decals. The RMZ-4 sported eighteen-inch wheels, bed extender, and specialty headlights. A yellow truck with screaming blue racing decals, the RMZ-4 at looked ready for the next desert race, as support vehicle or as contender.
The Quay concept (pronounced “key”) extended-cab, long-bed targeted boaters, and was driven on stage towing a sizable cruiser. This was the most plain-jane of the bunch, and very likely closest to what you’ll see on the road. The Quay’s paint job pulled from that of the company’s marine engines, it carried a longer bed and beefed-up towing capabilities, a Visteon navigation system, twenty-inch wheels, and a matching locking hard tonneau cover.
The best looking was the Quad crew cab concept, which Suzuki described as having been built to resemble their QuadRunner ATV. The Quad drove out with an ATV in the bed, of course, came dressed in a matte green, military style; with a 2.5-inch front lift, front skid plate and safari bumper; and tubular rocker guards. The Quad had the smallest wheels, though, at seventeen-inches, are the size the production truck will see.
Equator Doesn’t Stray Far from Frontier
We haven’t seen the 2009 Frontier, itself likely to get a minor facelift, but the 2009 Equator pulls from the known Frontier. Equator differs most in the front. Equator’s nose shares little with the Suzuki family, other than not looking like a Nissan. The Suzuki gets a different tailgate, amounting to a different handle and badges. Equator will offer a spray-on bedliner and tie-down system with adjustable tracks and C cross-section rails, all the better for loading up your ATV or motorcycle. Options will include bed dividers, sliding cargo trays, and modular storage units.
Inside, Suzuki gets the same layout, steering wheel, gauge cluster, and shift lever as Frontier. A Rockford Fosgate audio system and audio-in jack will be on the options list. Equator gets the fold-flat front passenger seat, flip-up rear seats with storage below, and dual glove box.
All in all, this has potential to be a successful relationship. Suzuki gets a competitive compact pickup truck and Nissan can insulate themselves from the ups and downs of the their own pickup sales and keep the plant busy.