More stories related to 2005 NAIASDETROIT – The utility vehicle segment is getting crowded, but American Suzuki Motor Corp. still sees room for growth and soon will have two new entries.

First up is a small cross/utility vehicle that will debut in concept form at the New York auto show in March. The vehicle will be produced in Japan and arrives in the fall as an ’06 model, Suzuki insiders say.

The body structure will be an “integrated ladder-frame unibody,” says Odeon Dy, American Suzuki’s product planning and sales training manager.

Second in the pipeline is an all-new midsize SUV that will replace the aging XL-7.

At this week’s North American International Auto Show here, Suzuki unveils a concept version of the midsize SUV that will serve as a basis for the XL-7 replacement, which arrives in 2006.

The Concept-X is daring and muscular, with a wedge-shaped front end and an offbeat interior loaded with features likely to be absent in the production version, including satellite television, e-mail access and DVD/DVR players for the entertainment of second- and third-row occupants.

The concept is powered by a 3.6L V-6. The production vehicle will have an all-new V-6, but Suzuki sources decline to give details about displacement or output.

Pricing for the new SUV has not yet been decided but likely will be comparable to the existing XL-7.

Suzuki has not announced where it will build the new SUV, but the vehicle possibly could be assembled at the CAMI Automotive Inc. plant owned jointly with General Motors Corp. in Ingersoll, Ont., Canada.

The new SUV will be based on a monocoque unibody architecture. Dy says the use of a car-based platform for such a sizeable vehicle demonstrates the advances in recent years of unibody architectures.

“The rigidity of unibody has come a long way,” Dy says.

Suzuki is one of Japan’s smaller auto makers in North America, but its growth in recent years has been impressive.

In 2004, Suzuki sales in the U.S. were up a record 26% over 2003, fueled by new products such as the Forenza Wagon and 5-door Reno hatchback.

tmurphy@primediabusiness.com