In all the bad news lately, it was easy to miss one important piece of good news: Suzuki has turned 100 years old.
Actually, the company’s history goes even further back than that, as it was originally formed in 1909 as the Suzuki Loom Works in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. Eventually, the company was re-formed into the Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Co. on March 15, 1920, with Michio Suzuki as the company’s big boss. Thus was born the industrial giant that is now one of the world’s biggest motor companies.
Suzuki moved into the vehicle manufacturing business in the post-World War II Japanese economic overhaul, with the Power Free engine. This was a two-stroke 36 cc engine that was intended to power a bicycle. More motorcycles soon followed, as well as the Suzulight minicar. And while Suzuki’s been out of the four-wheeled world in North America for some time (more’s the pity!), it’s still selling tough little 4x4s and economy cars all over the rest of the globe.
The company’s motorcycle production really took off in the 1960s and 1970s, with massive expansion of manufacturing capacity, and international racing attempts that garnered the company the respect of a previously-skeptical European and North American audience. Production shifted from small two-stroke motorcycles to big four-stroke bikes in the mid-’70s, and for about 20 years, Suzuki built a name for performance and reliability.
Nowadays, that’s changed a bit. Most current Suzuki designs, with the exception of the GSX-R1000, haven’t changed much in years. Some machines, like the V-Strom lines, get incremental updates, but nothing major, always a step or two behind the leading Euro and Japanese brands. Others, like the DR and SV lines, are almost completely unchanged in decades. But even while they might not be as fast or have the same techno-wizardry as the competition, Suzuki’s bikes still have the same rep for reliability as always, and pricing is often excellent when compared to other brands. With a new motorcycle plant opening a few months back in Hamamatsu, it’ll be exciting to see where the future leads this company.