The origins of Suzuki can be traced back to its founder, Michio Suzuki, who founded Suzuki Loom Works in 1909. The business was based in a small seaside village in Japan, where it took off and became a significant contributor to Japan’s silk industry. In fact, Michio Suzuki also invented a brand-new weaving machine in 1929 that was exported to other countries. Over the course of his career, he filed over 120 patents. The first 3 decades of the company focused on developing and producing complex machines for use in the silk industry; however, Michio Suzuki realised the need for diversifying his business. After looking at market trends at the time, he decided to venture into the automotive industry with a small car.
Development of the car began in 1937 and prototypes were made within the next 2 years. These cars were quite innovative with a liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder engine at their heart. The crankcase was cast with aluminium, and the car was futuristic for its time. However, the business took a dive during World War II and Suzuki had to turn his attention to his original looming business for a while.
After the war ended, Japan was in need of reliable and affordable personal transportation. While most companies offered typical bicycles with clip-on engines, Suzuki launched a rather ingenious bicycle fitted with a ‘Power Free’ motor. It was simple to build and cheap too. Additionally, it had a rather innovative double-sprocket gear system that allowed the rider to use pedals on both sides, or disconnect both or just one pedal. Michio Suzuki soon got a financial subsidy for further research in motorcycle engineering, and this marked the beginning of the Suzuki Motor Corporation.
The popularity of the company’s first motorcycles convinced Michio Suzuki to create the 1955 Suzulight, which also became successful with its front-wheel drive, independent suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering. These features became common in cars only several decades later.
Today, Suzuki specialises in producing 4X4 vehicles, motorcycles, all-terrain automobiles, wheelchairs, small engines, and outboard marine engines. By 2011, the company was the 10th biggest automaker in the world in terms of production.
Suzuki has offered a number of cars here over the years and a few of them have become important parts of our culture. One of them is the Suzuki Swift, which was introduced in 1984 as a low-cost econobox. It was available as a three-door van at first, and the full range came out in 1986. The front-wheel drive Swift took most of components from the Suzuki Hatch format vehicle. The year 1986 also saw the launch of the performance-enhanced Swift GTi in the country. This top-spec model got the full treatment from Suzuki, including performance and cosmetic components; however, it retained most of the fundamentals and body style of the original Swift.
Another popular car for Suzuki was the Grand Vitara. Suzuki had launched its latest 4x4 in Japan as the Escudo in 1988 and the Sidekick in North America in 1989. It debuted as the Vitara here in 1989, with the JX and JLX trims. The ‘Grand’ Vitara, however, came out only in 1999. The first-generation Grand Vitara was costlier, larger, and more powerful than the Vitara, and it got facelifts in 2002 and 2004. The next year, the second generation of the 4x4 was introduced. This new Grand Vitara was based on GM’s Theta platform and was developed independently by a team of engineers who also worked on the Theta.
One of the latest additions to the Suzuki line-up is the Kizashi, a mid-size car introduced on May 11, 2010. It is important for being the first ever mid-size car offered by Suzuki in our automotive market. Another recent car that made quite the impact in the country was the SX4. Smaller than most other Suzuki 4x4s like the Jimmy and Vitara, the SX4 was introduced in Japan in 2005 and here in 2006. At the time of its launch, it was considered by many to be a car well ahead of its time.
Suzuki made its name with its off-roading vehicles that offered incredible fuel economy. Its reputation in rallies and dirt racing helped it gain a strong foothold and fan following in the country. However, Suzuki took on highly competitive automotive market segments with its range of urban cars and 4x4s. Its Vitara, which started poorly, has become much more sophisticated over time and a refined choice among urban 4x4s in the country.
Similarly, the SX4 offers a versatility that is lacking among competitors like the Holden Cruze, Nissan Pulsar, and Toyota Corolla. It does lack the finesse and refinement present in these competitors, and its higher-end models tend to be overpriced, but the SX4 proved to be an honest and spacious small car with great dynamics and good performance.
This can be said for many of Suzuki’s models, which have competed with cars from other Japanese companies like Nissan and Toyota as well as domestic names like Holden. Today, these cars and Suzuki in general are an indisputable part of the motoring landscape of the country, and they have been since the 1970s.