Back in 2001, the Suzuki Motor Corporation was looking for a reputable company to distribute the company’s new range of outboards in Australia. It approached the Haines Group, then headed by the late John Haines senior. It was a bold move; the Haines Group already had a reputation for building a range of quality boats led by the very successful, award-winning Signature series.
The family company had already established a significant dealer network around Australia, but it was soon to find out that while its boats were well accepted at the time, there was little local knowledge of the Suzuki range of engines.
Haines dealers had heard of Suzuki motorbikes and cars, but outboards were another story altogether. John Haines (junior) tells stories of dealers handing back Suzuki brochures and walking away from his salesmen when they were approached.
He also tells the story of when his late father, who was a regular at the Barra Classic in the Northern Territory, was standing in the buffet line one night when he overheard a fellow competitor talking about a Suzuki dealer saying: “What would he know about outboards – he is only a broken-down boat builder”.
That was 10 years ago; now Suzuki is considered a pioneer and prominent manufacturer in the marine sphere.
Suzuki lays claim to being the third largest outboard manufacturer in the world, with a healthy 25 per cent market share. The company now manufactures and distributes a total of 27 models – 23 four-strokes, ranging from 2.5hp up to 300hp, and four two-stroke outboards, from 9.9hp to 40hp. Currently, the Haines Group supplies Suzuki outboards to 113 dealers in Australia and New Zealand.
Ironically, the Northern Territory is now a very strong market for both the Haines Group and Suzuki.
To mark the success of the brand, Suzuki has released a 10th Anniversary edition of its original white 60hp outboard. Only 20 will be available in Australia.
John Haines and his Haines Group team unveiled the Anniversary model with a couple of new models and some new technology during a day on the Noosa River on the Sunshine Coast – unfortunately, the only thing missing was the sunshine.
Other new releases were the lightweight DF20A and DF15A, which are the first in their classes with a battery-less electronic fuel-injection system that has been combined with Suzuki’s lean-burn fuel control. Suzuki engineers have designed a completely new fuel-injection system that consists of an inline high-pressure fuel pump, a new throttle body with a small fuel cooler, vapour separator and fuel injectors.
The system is similar to that used on its bigger engines, but is lighter, due to manufacturing the vapour separator and fuel pump out of resins and reducing the size of many components. The result is the DF15A weighs in at 44kg and the DF20A at 45kg, making them the lightest in their class. This is despite cylinder capacity being increased from 302cc to 372cc.
The two engines are designed for entry-level boats, such as small RIBs, tenders and smaller fishing boats.
For some time, Suzuki says its competitors have been in front with smart tiller handles. According to the company, its engineers have not only caught up with their rivals, but have outpaced them with a new tiller handle that works with all models from the DF40 up to the DF115. The new handle is easier to grip and the shape of the gear change lever has been changed to make it more ergonomic. It’s also slightly longer than the previous model, with the trim and tilt switches on the end of the handle grip. They can be adjusted to three different positions. The other main features are the Troll mode switch and the electronic tacho display. This allows the revs to be increased or lowered in 50rpm increments up to 1200rpm. It’s also a boon to dealers, who can use the tacho to set the boat up with the right prop, without having to resort to the ‘try it and see’ method.
We drove a Cross X Country – a neat 4.3m fishing boat built at Cabbage Tree in Brisbane – powered by a DF40 with the new tiller handle fitted and found it very easy to use. The engine started first time with the electric key start or the conventional recoil starter and the boat was fun to drive, producing a soft, dry ride with a surprising turn of speed. Full throttle delivered 22 knots (41km/h). The tacho on the tiller handle showed the engine revs at 5200rpm. The DF40 will rev out to 6000rpm, so builder Tyson Dethridge was planning to change the 11.5 x 16 prop to a smaller one to take advantage of the extra 800rpm on offer.
Another pioneering piece of technology is Suzuki’s Selective Rotation – a world first, according to Suzuki. When setting up twin rigs, it is necessary to have the starboard engine rotate clockwise and the port engine anticlockwise. This is in order to neutralise the torque effect of both engines so that the boat will track in a straight line.
This means that one engine is rotating normally, while the second is designed to counter-rotate. It also requires that the ‘counter-rotating’ engine’s gearbox has to be re-engineered, with additional time and cost involved. Most dealers don’t like to trade in counter-rotating engines because they can be hard to sell.
Suzuki has solved the problem by designing a standard engine that will rotate normally or counter-rotate, simply by flicking a switch. A gearbox redesign was part of the new system, including a new slightly larger gearcase with a more hydrodynamic, reduced-drag shape.
There are also new V6 engines, the DF300AP and DF250AP, both of which will be available in September. Both have an aggressive 2.08:1 final drive ratio that can turn a 16in (406mm) prop. A second water inlet has been added; one forward at the gear-case nose and the other positioned lower so they can operate in shallow water.
With many water police and rescue vessels opting for multiple Suzuki configurations, Selective Rotation is a real bonus. A twin rig was demonstrated on the VMR’s Raby Bay 11m rescue craft. The craft is based on a PowerCat hull, but has been customised, with bulbs added to the bows by Eagle Catamarans at Jacob’s Well, just north of the Gold Coast.
The system works well in a three-up configuration, too, employing two regular outboards on the starboard and in the centre, with the counter-rotator on the port side. It’s a formidable configuration as the Queensland water police demonstrated with their 11.3m Naiad RIB patrol boat (pictured, above) built by Yamba Welding in NSW.
As John Haines said: “You ain’t seen nothing yet. Another eight new products are due to be released in the next 18 months.” ¿