Suzuki asks friends on Facebook: Do you like my cars?

Suzuki is no wallflower. Like a teenage boy asking a girl out on a date for the first time, it's putting the reputation of its cars and trucks on the line with no promise of a positive return. It began doing it this week by beginning to ask Facebook users to rate how much they like the carmaker's vehicles on a scale of 1 to 5.

The promotion is risky in that you never know how mean people are going to be. But the Japanese car company is hoping solid sales for all of its vehicles this year are an indicator that buyers are liking what they're driving home from showrooms.

The "Rate Your Suzuki" Vehicle Ratings Feature launched this month at facebook.com/suzukiauto appears on the left-hand column of the main screen. It allows fans and foes of Suzuki cars and trucks to use Facebook as a vehicle to rate the Kizashi, SX4 (pictured), Grand Vitara and Equator.

The feature was designed by Maryland-based SocialCubix and allows users to post commentaries. That makes anybody with a computer a potential fan or critic of every Suzuki sold in America. Suzuki has sold cars in the U.S. since 1963 and has a current dealer network of 300 stores in 49 states.

“We believe this kind of interactive tool will engage our fans on a whole new level,” said Jeff Holland, associate director of public relations and social media for the California-based American arm of Suzuki.

“It is an easy way for our customers to tell us what they like about our vehicles, as well as provide information on how we can potentially improve our products.”

The feature is optimized to run on Google Chrome, Firefox/Mozilla and Internet Explorer 8, Holland said. Viewing it with any of these browsers will allow users to experience the full benefits of this feature.

Besides using the Internet to reach potential buyers and make sure current ones are happy, Suzuki is promoting the use of leading-edge technology in-house to prod sales.

A limited number of consultants who sell the vehicles in showrooms are now using SuzukiZone iPads mobile tablets from Apple to demonstrate engineering and performance capabilities of Suzuki's cars and trucks to potential buyers in major markets.

“Suzuki believes that by investing in our sales consultants with the marriage of the latest technology and custom-tailored product content, the shopping process for consumers will be more informative and will lead to better appreciation of the superior engineering, technology, quality, and value built into every Suzuki,” said Steve Younan, director of marketing and product planning for American Suzuki Automotive Operations.

“We believe this will not only contribute to better sales success for our dealers, but also will ultimately provide a more satisfying ownership experience for our customers.”

The tool’s primary purpose is to provide immediate access to product and inventory information.

SuzukiZone iPads were distributed to select dealerships in February to March, going only to dealerships in top 20 markets. A national launch of the initiative is happening by fall.

The tablets have information like this:

1. Videos and animation that concisely illustrate safety and performance advantages of all technologies built into every Suzuki.

2. Head-to-head comparison videos demonstrating the superiority of Suzuki vehicles vs. competitive brands when it comes to handling and braking.

3. Interactive engineering cut-away illustrations and under-carriage views to best illustrate quality, durability and performance advantages.

The SuzukiZone iPad trains consultants with tutorials so they can easily program and set up their customers' navigation, Bluetooth and infotainment preferences. This, Suzuki officials contend, considerably elevates what they call "the vehicle delivery experience."

You can reach TorqueNews.com's Hawke Fracassa at hawkefracassa@aol.com.

Image source: Suzuki