A Brief history of Suzuki
The Suzuki Motor Company may not have appeared until 1954, its history, however, can be traced back to 1909 when Michio Suzuki founded the Suzuki Loom Company. For the next 30 years Suzuki developed and grew the business and in 1929 invented a new loom that proved not only to be popular in its native Japanese market, but also in the USA. Great success followed for the company, but Michio realised the company needed to diversify to continue with this success and as a result he decided the best way forward was in the development of a new small car. The new venture was started in 1937 and within a couple of years the company had developed several protoypes, the onset of World War II however, ended these developments, when the Japanese government declared that civilian vehicles were not an essential commodity. As a result the end of the war saw Suzuki returning to their production of looms. Business was once agin brisk and when the USA approved the shipping of cotton to Japan it positivly boomed, this however proved to be short lived as the cotton market collapsed in 1951.
Diversification once again became the way forward and in 1952 Suzuki developed the "Power Free", basically a motorised bicycle, powered by a 36 cc engine. The clever part was the double sprocket gear system that allowed the rider to pedal without engine assistance, the engine to provide all the power, or a combination of both. This system was regarded as being so ingenious, that the company was given financial backing by the government to continue developing new products and so in 1954 the Suzuki Motor Corporation came into being.
Following their success in the motorcycle market, Suzuki then looked into the production of cars and in 1955 launched the Suzulight, packed with innovation – independent suspension, front wheel drive, rack and pinion steering – the Suzulight marked Suzuki's entrance into the car market.
Suzuki's next major step forward came in 1970 with the introduction of the LJ (light Jeep) series. Originally designed by the Hope Motor Company of Japan in 1965, it was an extremely basic vehicle with no doors, it did however have an extremely robust four wheel drive system that allowed the Hopestar ON360 (as it was known) to cope with almost any terrain. The Hope Motor Company struggled to sell the ON360 and in 1968 sold the design rights to Suzuki. Their first incarnation, the LJ 10 was an extremely basic car just as the ON360 had been before, the spare wheel was positioned behind the passenger seat to allow them to keep the car at just under three metres long, making it the first 4 X 4 Keicar. The LJ 20 was introduced two years later and after another two years, the LJ 50 was introduced as the Jimny, thirty odd years later the Jimny’s offspring are still in production.
1981 saw Suzuki signing business tie ups with both General Motors and Isuzu, a collaboration that would go on to see Suzuki's being rebadged for the US market, it also opened up the US to the Japanese manufacturer, they built a reputation for producing compact SUV's at very competetive prices and as a result sales went from strength to strength.
Today Suzuki produces the Grand Vitara, the Swift, the SX-4, the Jimny and the Splash for the UK market, so its tradition of producing budget 4 X 4's and economical small cars continues.