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Getting the jump on deflation, Suzuki Motor Corp. has taken the wraps off a 490,000 yen car.

On Jan. 22, Suzuki, an affiliate of General Motors Corp. of the United States, introduced four versions of the Twin, a 2.6-meter, two-seater minicar.

The Gasoline A model is by far the cheapest, at 490,000 yen, and boasts fuel efficiency of 26 km per liter.

Despite its modest price, the 660cc Gasoline A is equipped with a driver-side air bag and antilock braking system, although it is otherwise bare bones, lacking such amenities as automatic transmission and air conditioning.

The Gasoline A version costs 60,000 yen less than what has been the cheapest minicar, Suzuki’s Alto.

But a Honda Motor Co. official brushed aside the impact of the Twin, saying, “Price is only one of various attractive elements” of a product.

Suzuki has managed to hold down the cost of the Gasoline A model by equipping it only with a manual transmission and doing away with power steering and air conditioning. The more-upscale Gasoline B version sells for 840,000 yen.

The top-of-the-line Hybrid B version comes in at 1.39 million yen. It is powered by a hybrid propulsion system that provides it with fuel efficiency of 34 km per liter.

The price compares with the 2.18 million yen for Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid sedan, which gets 31 km per liter. Both the Twin Hybrid B and the Prius come with automatic transmission.

A hybrid car is powered by both a gasoline engine and electric motor, which increases its fuel efficiency by transmitting kinetic power to wheels when it starts moving or accelerates.

A hybrid converts kinetic power into electricity, storing it in a battery when the brakes are applied.

In 1979, Suzuki debuted the first of its series of Alto-brand minicars. The first Alto sold for 470,000 yen and was popular with women.

The Twin’s Gasoline A, which has rolled into showrooms more than 20 years later, costs only 20,000 yen more than the first Alto.

Technological innovations of the past two decades give the Twin much higher quality and a chassis structure of far greater rigidity, which better protects passengers.

A Suzuki official in charge of research and development said: “During the bubble economy years, standard equipment on minicars began to assume posh and superfluous features.

“In devising this model, we thought we should return to the starting point of minicars — that they are a practical and easy-to-use means of transportation.”

Also this month, Suzuki unveiled its Choinori 50cc scooter, which sells for 59,800 yen, a record low for any Suzuki scooter.

“Merchandise made in Japan will not perish,” Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki said, adding his company is determined to follow any business strategy necessary to navigate the storm of deflation.

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