NEW YORK – American Suzuki Motor Corp. says the new Verona midsize sedan has been delayed due to the need for a higher-horsepower V-6 engine.

Tom Carney, American Suzuki vice president-sales, says the Verona’s current inline 6-cyl. engine won’t cut it in the ultra-competitive midsize sedan segment in the U.S.

The redesigned second-generation Verona was scheduled to be on display at Suzuki’s booth for the New York auto show.

“It was slated to be here,” Carney tells Ward's. “(But with the I-6), the car was just underpowered. You hit the gas and nothing was happening,” he says, adding the powertrain’s measly 155 hp pales in comparison with the horsepower of competing models.

“Even though (Verona’s I-6) was torque-y, you’re competing with the Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans. The Nissan (Altima’s 3.5L) V-6 is incredible. You hit the gas and your neck snaps back,” he says of the engine’s 260 hp.

Carney says Suzuki is unsure when the next-generation Verona, which likely will see a name change, will debut. He says dealers are “concerned we’re not moving fast enough on it, but we’re doing the best we can.”

He has high praise for the new, re-sculpted body, calling it “beautiful,” but adds, “no matter what it looks like, if it doesn’t have the power in the U.S., you’re dead in the water.”

Verona sales were down 51.9% in the U.S. in March. However, it is an anomaly as Suzuki has seen sales grow 40% so far this year in the U.S., largely due to the strength of the new Grand Vitara cross/utility vehicle.

Carney says he is confident the auto maker will achieve its target of 120,000 unit sales in the U.S. in 2006, and 200,000 in 2007. The later goal is part of the company’s 3-5-7 plan to triple U.S. sales in the 5-year period from 2003 to 2007.

He anticipates that by 2010, Suzuki will be selling 300,000 units annually here.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com