The year 1920 was a busy one. The League of Nations was founded, the island of Ireland was divided and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe horse race was organized for the first time. Meanwhile, in Japan, a company that supplied machinery for Japan’s huge silk industry was formed. This company ? Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company.
Fast forward a century (plus a year, thanks to the pandemic), and Suzuki UK celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary by bringing all of its divisions together at an event for the first time. Why is it so special? Well if you read Auto Express you already know Suzuki cars and you probably know his motorcycles too. But did you know that it is also a leader in the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) market and that it also has a marine division? While cars represent 72 percent of Suzuki’s UK sales and motorcycles 16 percent, the marine and ATV divisions account for the remaining eight and four percent, respectively.
The diversity of the company is due to the founder of the company Michio Suzuki. With a carpentry background, Suzuki eventually found himself running the family silkworm farm, where he redesigned his mother’s loom to help her work 10 times more efficiently. When rival farms heard about them, he decided to mass produce them, making Suzuki an innovative loom maker.
Not content with making looms, Mr. Suzuki then turned his attention to transportation. The first experiments were put on hold during World War II, but 1952 saw the arrival of the Power Free motorcycle. Essentially a bike with a 36cc engine bolted to the frame, it was quickly followed by the Diamond Free with a 60cc engine, and Suzuki sales exploded.
The switch to cars came in 1955, with the arrival of the Suzulight sedan. He established a model for Suzuki’s four-wheelers by offering small dimensions and innovation, helping the company to stand out from its rivals. Since the company was founded in 1920, Suzuki has followed the “Kaizen” philosophy: continuous improvement in its engineering and efficiency, and this is something that is clearly seen in the range of models sold. in the UK today.
In Japan, Suzuki is a leader in the ultra-compact kei car category with a wide variety of models. Some have even made it to the UK – but why doesn’t Suzuki sell kei cars here now? It all comes down to the legislation: it would be too expensive to add European safety kits such as eCall and city braking to Suzuki models intended for the domestic market. Instead, the UK is getting a range of small cars and SUVs, and while the company has modest ambition to increase its market share to 2% in the future, its eclectic lineup certainly delivers. variety.
There’s the funky-looking Ignis and the Swift supermini, which also comes in as a thin-handling hot hatch, now with fuel-efficient hybrid technology. But Suzuki’s other strength is all-wheel drive. It can be used on the Swift and Ignis, while the Vitara, S-Cross, and Jimny offer varying degrees of off-road capability when the 4×4 is installed. At one time, the Vitara was an all-terrain vehicle that could carry the family, but today its role is reversed, with practicality and comfort taking over, although there is enough off-road capability for most needs. If you need more capacity, albeit in a small package, the Jimny is virtually unstoppable.
Hybrid technology is another area where Suzuki is pioneering, as all cars have some form of electric assist – few competing manufacturers can claim that. The latest models to arrive are the Swace station wagon and the Across SUV, both of which are the result of cooperation with Toyota. The latter is Suzuki’s first plug-in hybrid, while the collaboration with the Japanese giant will also give birth to Suzuki’s first all-electric car, a version of Toyota’s future bZ4X EV.
Suzuki has a longer history on two wheels than on four. While its first machines were little more than bicycles with small motors, the company’s “Kaizen” philosophy has led it to constantly update its offerings over the years.
Surprisingly, she only sold two-stroke motorcycles until 1976, but her many years of expertise with this type of engine helped her win the 500cc Motorcycle World Championship with Barry Sheene in 1977.
In fact, racing is part of Suzuki’s motorcycle DNA. It has won events at the infamous Isle of Man TT races and has achieved success in motocross, while teams using Suzuki have shown the brand’s reliability by winning endurance racing titles. In Suzuki’s anniversary year, Spanish rider Joan Mir won the marque’s MotoGP World Championship.
The Suzuki range of motorcycles covers a variety of models, from scooters to off-road adventure bikes and high-performance sports machines. At the top of the range is the Hayabusa, with 187bhp and 150Nm of torque from a 1.3-liter engine and the kind of electronics kit one would find in a top sports car. Both traction and launch control are installed, while anti-wheeling software is developed from technology used by MotoGP motorcycles. The aerodynamics of the Hayabusa are also designed to provide stability at high speeds.
The company’s flagship adventure bike is the V-Strom, which could be described as the SUV of the lineup. It has a high, upright riding position that’s comfortable enough that you can consider riding all day, and it’s a machine that can take you anywhere. Its 1,050cc two-cylinder engine delivers plenty of torque, and although the V-Strom has been used to travel the world, in part thanks to a suspension that is as good on the road as it is off.
All-terrain vehicles have gained a place on UK farms as work vehicles that can access parts not accessible to SUVs, and Suzuki is a market leader. In fact, the firm invented the quad. While tricycles with balloon tires arrived in the late 1960s, they were relatively unstable. Suzuki therefore had the idea of adding two front wheels for more stability with the QuadRunner LT125.
Safety is a key priority today, and Suzuki offers the King Quad, a four-wheel drive machine with a 500cc or 750cc single cylinder engine and disc brakes. With its big tires and long-travel suspension, it’s the quad equivalent of the all-terrain Jimny, while an automatic transmission lets you focus on your surroundings, rather than worrying about speed in the road. which one you are in.
Most surprising of all is Suzuki’s marine range. The company does not sell boats, but manufactures outboards ranging from a 70cc 2.5hp single cylinder to a powerful 4.4L 350hp V6. Plus, these engines are sleek designs, not just powertrains of cars or bicycles converted to fill a demand gap.
This V6 has two propellers for better response, and in a relatively light Rigid Tire (RIB) it really shifts. The engine is used in applications such as deep-sea fishing and pleasure travel, while the reliability of the V6 was proven at the 2021 G7 summit in Cornwall, where a twin-engine police boat remained idle for the eight days. of the conference.
Although this operation seems unnecessary, Suzuki is doing its part to help the marine environment with its Clean Ocean project. Outboards use seawater to help cool the engine, and Suzuki has developed a filtration system that captures microplastics, returning clean water to the ocean. As a result, microscopic plastic waste can be collected every time the engine is running, and since it is mounted on the waste return, there is no compromise on engine performance either.
Suzuki’s current business philosophy is “Sho-Sho-Kei-Tan-Bi”, which translates to “smaller, fewer, lighter, shorter and cleaner”. It is an extension of Suzuki’s 100-year innovation philosophy in its products that make life easier for customers, and there is also a greater emphasis on protecting the environment.
While Suzuki is a relatively small player in the UK market, it has developed a loyal following thanks to its range of compact and character cars and its unique identity. Over the next few years, whether it’s cars, motorcycles, ATVs or outboard motors, Suzuki is sure to innovate and embrace change for the benefit of its customers around the world.
What is your favorite Suzuki vehicle? Let us know in the comments …