From looms to fuel cells: 100 years of Suzuki
As a global automotive company that continues to grow in reputation, popularity and success, Suzuki celebrates its centenary this October. Through its 100-year history, Suzuki has earned the distinction of manufacturing automobile and motorcycle products that offer excellent value for money as well as exceptional reliability.
Michio Suzuki founded the Suzuki Loom Company in Hamamatsu, Southern Japan in 1909. While manufacturing looms for production of plain white fabric, he learned that weavers wanted looms that could produce cloth with vertical and horizontal stripes, so he developed a unique loom capable of weaving patterned cloth from dyed yarn. Suzuki's new innovation represented the start of an uncompromising focus on creating products that meet people's needs and realize new lifestyle possibilities.
In 1952, Suzuki expanded into production of motorcycles with the 'Power Free' using a 36cc two stroke engine. The Power Free was simple in design, offered very easy maintenance and was unique at that time as it could be ridden fully motorized, partially motorized or by using the pedals without any engine assistance. Just a year later, Suzuki was building 6,000 motorcycles per month.
Three years after his first motorcycle, Suzuki car production began with the Suzulight, a compact car with a 360cc two-stroke engine. The Suzulight was one of the first cars to feature front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension and rack and pinion steering. Suzuki's off-road vehicle heritage began in 1970 with the launch of the LJ series lightweight 4x4. The first marine outboard motor was introduced in 1965, then pre-fabricated houses in 1974, general-purpose engines in 1980 and its first All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) in 1982.
In 2008, Suzuki sold 2.3 million cars globally - strong results for the brand despite the tough market conditions. Meanwhile, motorcycle sales figures totaled to 3.4 million also in the same year. The brand has dominated the UK market for the last six years in the above 126cc category.
The same creativity and dedication of Michio Suzuki underpin Suzuki's development of its world strategic models. The first one in this category, the Swift, introduced in 2005, which is produced in six countries with production figures reaching 1 million units. In 2006, its second world strategic model, the Grand Vitara, as an evolution of the first-generation Vitara series, with which it pioneered the market for compact sport utility vehicles 21 years ago. Worldwide production of the Grand Vitara has now reached 2.6 million units. The third model, the SX4 sport crossover, proved to have such outstanding chassis potential when launched in 2006 that Suzuki ran it in the World Rally Championship in 2007 and 2008 (45 years after Suzuki's participation in the first Japanese Grand Prix in 1963).
In March this year the seventh generation Alto was launched; named after the car with which Suzuki has dominated the mini vehicle segment in Japan for 30 years. Another important milestone for Suzuki in 2009 as the Alto has sold a total of 10 million units in its 30-year existence.
Commitment to R&D
One of the essential elements to Suzuki's growth has been its commitment to continuing research and technology, to meet its customers changing needs. In 2008, the Suzuki SX4-FCV fuel-cell vehicle had been certified by the Japanese government. The company has also announced plans to develop a hydrogen-powered motorcycle, the Suzuki Crosscage.
What was once a small group of dedicated engineers, designing the world's finest weaving machinery, has today grown into a worldwide company of almost 50,000 people, who create and distribute products in more than 190 nations.
As it enters its 100th year, Suzuki will continue its tradition of technological trailblazing and appealing to customers who demand unique design, value, reliability and superior engineering.