The last twelve months has seen Australia reignite its love affair with the automobile in a big way, especially where 4x4s are concerned.
The demand for cars, fuelled by an aversion towards public transport as well as a renewed interest in road trips (both a result of the COVID-19 crisis) has seen the second-hand market absolutely skyrocket, with capable off-roaders like the Land Rover Defender and Toyota Land Cruiser in particularly high demand.
But one car that’s seen the most dramatic spike in popularity – as well as speculation – has been the humble Suzuki Jimny. The fourth ‘GJ’ generation of the hardy Japanese mini-SUV, first introduced in 2018, has quickly become one of the most desirable vehicles in the country. It’s not hard to see why, either: cute, practical, reliable and cheap, it ticks all the boxes.
Or at least, it used to be cheap. While the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Jimny starts at the rather affordable $28,490, severe stock shortages (another impact of COVID) combined with unprecedented demand has seen Aussies flipping these little cars with the same sort of intensity and price premiums that you’d normally see on ‘hyped’ luxury goods like Rolex watches.
Let’s do the numbers. As of publishing, there are currently 47 Suzuki Jimny GJs listed on Carsales in Australia. None of them are selling for below the MSRP of $28,490. Indeed, the cheapest on Carsales, a beige manual 2019 base model with around 41,000km on the clock, is listed for $34,000. That’s roughly a 20% premium over retail. According to Budget Direct, the average Australian vehicle drives 13,301km per year. That would make the 41,000km of this two-year-old GJ well above average.
Conventional wisdom normally relates that a new car loses about 10-15% of its value in depreciation the moment you drive it off the dealer’s lot, with another 10-15% getting wiped off its value by the end of its first year of ownership. So a two-year-old car with above-average mileage commanding a 20% price premium is unusual, to say the least.
The most expensive model on Carsales, another beige example, this time an automatic from 2020 with only 1,600km showing, is listed for $50,000. That’s an over 75% premium. Granted, it’s not a base model nor is it stock – it has some cosmetic modifications that the owner claims are worth $1,500 – and 1,600km is below average mileage for a year-old car. Yet the point still stands: Jimny prices are extraordinarily high, especially considering it’s a current model from a value-oriented Japanese marque.
It reminds us immediately of the same sort of speculation popular Rolex models have been experiencing for years. Take the Rolex Submariner ‘No Date’ (ref. 124060-0001) which was re-released last year. A quick search on Chrono24 reveals dozens of examples of the watch, some box-fresh, some barely worn, all of which are commanding a substantial premium over the $11,400 Australian RRP: on the low end around a 45% premium and at the high end as much as a 105% premium. Again, extraordinarily high prices for a stainless steel sports watch.
With waitlists for Jimnys starting to rival waitlists for Submariners too, the comparison is rather apt. Both Rolex and Suzuki have also suffered severe manufacturing disruption thanks to The Spicy Cough… And both brands regularly cop criticism from Australians for not allocating enough stock Down Under.
Demonstrably, the situation with Jimnys isn’t quite as bad as it is with Rolexes. Speculators aren’t literally just driving off the lot and slapping their cars on the classifieds straight away, as is so often the case with desirable Rolex models like Submariners or Daytonas. At least, they aren’t yet.
Suzuki’s plans to expand Jimny production to India as well as to introduce a five-door model might take some of the heat out of the GJ market. Australian-spec Jimnys are likely to continue to be sourced from Japan, although the Indian production line could help reduce local wait times as it shoulders some of the global demand from the stretched Japanese plant, WhichCar reports.
But that could be months if not years away – meaning that Jimny prices are likely to remain eye-wateringly high for a while yet.
All we know is that it’s a tough time to be an Australian Jimny or Rolex fan.