Suzuki company history

Suzuki's rise to its current position as a manufacturer and distributor of high-quality automobiles, sport-utility vehicles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and outboard motors would have been hard to predict 95 years ago when the company was started by Michio Suzuki in the small seacoast village of Hamamatsu, Japan. At that time, Suzuki's only desire was to build better, more user-friendly weaving looms.

For the first 30 years of the company's existence, its sole production focus was on these exceptionally complex machines. Suzuki textile looms were more innovative and higher in quality than competing machines of that era, and displaced the previously dominant British and Dutch products. Michio Suzuki was even awarded a Blue Ribbon Medal by the government of Japan for his contribution to the growth of thenation's economy through his industry-leading inventions.

Despite the success of his looms, Michio Suzuki realized that his company had to diversify, and he began to look at other products.
Focusing on burgeoning consumer demand, he decided that building a small car would be the most practical new venture, based on the company's financial situation and expertise. The project began in 1937 and by 1939 several compact prototype automobiles had been completed. These first vehicles were powered by a Suzuki original: a then-innovative, liquid-cooled,four-stroke, four-cylinder engine.It featureda cast aluminum crankcase and gearbox and generated an impressive 13 horsepower from a displacement of less than 800cc (50 cubic inches).

Development of the project came to a halt when the government declared civilian passenger cars to be a "non-essential commodity," and Suzuki was ordered to halt production. Following the conclusion of the war in the Pacific in 1945, Suzuki once again began the production of looms. However, because materials were scarce and demand fluctuated wildly, Suzuki was unable to reach pre-war levels of production. In order to ensure that the enterprise would survive, Suzuki applied its engineering power to every product for which there was a demand: farm implements, heaters, tools--even musical instruments.

In 1946 loom production was spurred by the U.S. government's approval of shipping cotton to Japan. Suzuki's fortunes brightened as orders began to increase from domestic textile manufacturers. The joy was short-lived,
however, because in 1951 the cotton market collapsed. Faced with this colossal challenge, Michio Suzuki once again considered the average Japanese citizen's need for inexpensive transportation and decided to
create a new type of motor vehicle.

His first effort was a motorized bicycle called the Power Free. Designed to be inexpensive and simple to build and maintain, the Power Free featured a 36cc two-stroke engine.
An unprecedented feature was the double-sprocket gear system, which enabled the rider to pedal with the engine assisting, pedal without engine assist, or disconnect the pedals and run with engine power alone. The system was so ingenious, the patent office of the new democratic government granted Suzuki a financial subsidy to continue motorcycle engineering research.
In a short time, the Power Free got a two-speed transmission, and was joined by a more powerful 60cc version called the Diamond Free.

By 1954, Suzuki was producing 6,000 motorcycles per month and had changed its name to Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd. The die for Suzuki's future was cast. Following the success of its first motorcycles, Suzuki created an even more successful automobile: the 1955 Suzulight. This technological home run included front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering -- then radical innovations. Four decades later, these features have become standard on cars throughout the world.

By the late 1970s, having established its reputation with a strong line-up of two-stroke bikes, Suzuki made the big transition to four-stroke streetbikes with the introduction of the legendary GS series. By the early 1980s, Suzuki had firmly staked out its territory as a major player in the market for tough, reliable, high-performance road machines.

The mid 1980s were a turning point for the company. It stunned the motorcycle world at the 1984 Cologne show by revealing two new models, the two stroke RG500 and the GSX-R750.
Since then the Suzuki motorcycle range has gained a greater and greater following and the GSX-R range has grown with it, spawning 250, 400, 600, 1.000 and 1.100cc versions.

Sources: Suzuki Australia, "Suzuki GSX-R750" by Rob Simmonds
ISBN 1 85960 821 3

Michio Suzuki
1887 - 1982