“Do you perhaps know why there were so many Jimnies in Clarens, and were you part of it?” was one of the first questions I was asked as soon as we entered the Lesotho border via the iconic (and 4×4-only) Sani Pass. It filled me with great joy to explain the reason behind this (let’s call this) Jimny take-over. Primarily, since I was part of a historic event, and hopefully, the first of many.
Here are a few things we learned during the Heritage weekend in Clarens.
1. Suzuki South Africa sure knows how to throw a party
The #JimnyGathering was conceptualised as the semicentennial celebration of the Jimny brand, which came to life in 1970. Due to the unfortunate events of COVID-19, this event was postponed to 2023, with Suzuki South Africa deciding to go all-in.
Whilst Suzuki SA decided to host the #JimnyGathering on the Langkranz farm, just outside Clarens, it was also decided to host the Suzuki Safari Town Festival within the town itself.
This decision, ultimately symbolised Suzuki’s ideology, in not excluding anyone. One of the central reasons for Suzuki SA’s recent success, is due to the manufacturer, creating cars for any type of person and not excluding anyone. From the small Espresso and Celerio, all the way to the Jimny, XL6, and the Grand Vitara, Suzuki has strategically positioned themselves in creating something for everyone.
The festivities started with a “silent-disco” on the Langkranz farm on the Friday, complete with a “Batman-like” Jimny-heritage light on the surrounding mountain. Three different DJ’s managed three different music channels, with disco tiers being able to switch between different stations.
The Saturday saw multiple activities taking place, with the Suzuki Safari Town Festival already starting before midday, whilst Jimny owners could discover the beautiful Langkranz 4×4 route.
“Safari” in Swahili, means “journey”. Ultimately, Suzuki South Africa hopes to re-host several more Safari Festivals in multiple locations, around the country. The first iteration was certainly a success as the centre of Clarens was brought to life with music bands, such as Black Heidi, Mango Groove, Goodluck and Spoegwolf. The only negative of the event might have been the fact that South Africa lost to Ireland.
Whilst the streets and pavements were filled with Jimnies, the Safari Town Festival itself, saw different people from all over the country, and even neighbouring countries such as Namibia.
2. Breaking records
Heritage day saw the official hosting of the #JimnyGathering on the Langkranz farm itself, where more than 800 Jimnies followed the “#JimnyParkingRules” in a successful bid to break a Guinness World Record.
This was preceded by more festivities with Pedro Barbosa, Steve Umculo, Soul Man’s Rhythm and Blues Machine. Schalk Bezuidenhout (a fellow Jimny owner) even made the crowd cry with laughter.
The event even saw the lead-designer of the Jimny, Hisanori Matsushima, joining the festivities, all the way from the Suzuki headquarters in Japan.
With blaring Jimny horns and flashing lights, Jimny owners took part in the record-attempt. This demonstrated the general ownership of Suzuki’s in South Africa, with the manufacturer selling ‘quirky’, yet sensible cars.
3. Suzuki South Africa has its sights on the future
Over the weekend, many mentioned that a Jimny (which-ever generation) is not just a car, but ultimately a family member. As a Jimny-owner myself, I can attest to this statement. One new acquaintance even stated that there are two kinds of people in this World; those who own a Jimny, and those who want one. Whether or not you agree with this statement, the global demand for Jimnies are sky-rocketing, especially in America and European countries, where these are limited.
With this in mind, Suzuki listened to the needs of its aspiring customers, and created a 5-door version of the 4th generation Jimny. Whilst official pricing is yet to be released in November (keep a lookout on our socials and website), Suzuki already has its hands full with incoming pre-orders. This is largely due to not only the demand for this Jimny (which is will be 340mm longer), but also due to this model being showcased at the recent NAMPO and Festival of Motoring events. Five models were even shipped in for the Jimny Gathering and Suzuki Safari Festival.
It is astonishing what Suzuki has done with barely a ruler’s length. With an extra set of doors, the new 5-door version will more comfortably seat rear passengers and enlarge the boot space from 85 litres (in the 3-door version) to 209 litres. The 5-door version will also include a few other twitches and improvements, while initial testers made mention to an improved ride quality. We’ll delve into more detail upon the formal release of the car.
Apart from the Jimny, Suzuki is eager to hold onto (and even improve) its current status as one of the most successful vehicle manufacturers in the country. Prior to the Jimny Gathering, Suzuki launched the third generation Grand Vitara, the Eeco (a half-tonne workhorse), the new Fronx (a compact SUV), as well as the brand new XL6 (a 6-seater MPV). Each of these models indicate Suzuki’s keen interest in public opinions and demands, as well as a hunger to keep improving.
The Jimny Gathering and the Suzuki Safari Festival not only brought together current Suzuki and Jimny owners, but also showcased the brands’ future intentions to the general public.