Suzuki story started with a loom

Firm celebrates 100 years of innovation

Celebrating a centenary, a very special occasion indeed, in the middle of a pandemic is a challenge and something that could go spectacularly wrong.

It went wrong for Suzuki in the sense that it should have been 2020, but everything else they put on during celebrations in the Welsh capital of Cardiff proved spot on.

Suzuki celebrated its 100th year in 2020 and the Japanese firm has come a long way from where it all began more than 100 years ago as a textile industry.

It has since grown with their core DNA and ‘Kaizen’ principle of continuous improvement in engineering and customer satisfaction marking its success  across its car, motorcycle, marine engines and ATV products.

It all started with Sho-Sho-Kei-Tan-Bi’ which translates to ‘smaller, fewer, lighter, shorter and neater’ and represents the basis of Suzuki’s manufacturing since its foundation.

Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Co launched in 1920, and came after founder Michio Suzuki pioneered a new type of textile loom design in 1909. That morphed into automotive and other milestones followed:

• Suzuki’s first motorcycle launched in 1952.

• Suzuki’s first car launched in 1955.

• Establishment of ‘S’ company trademark in 1958.

• Suzuki’s first victory at the Isle of Man TT in 1962.

• Suzuki’s first outboard motor launched in 1965 with 5.5Hp. 

• Suzuki’s first Four Wheel Drive vehicle – Jimny LJ10 – launched in 1970.

• Suzuki’s first Snowmobile launched in 1971.

• World’s first four-wheel ATV model launched by Suzuki in 1982.

After this, the firm name changed in 1990 to Suzuki Motor Corporation and since then:

• Returned to MotoGP in 2015 with GSX-RR.

• 100 per cent ‘Hybrids for all’ availability across its passenger car range and unique in the industry offering 12 Volt, 48 Volt, Higher Voltage Hybrid and PHEV models.

• Suzuki pioneered the Compact and Lightweight 12 Volt Hybrid system in 2016.

• Have six models in the car range have 4×4 capability optionally available which is unique in the industry.  

• Offered a choice of 19 Sports, Street, Adventure and Scooter type motorcycles available plus two Motocross models. 

• Offer 30 Marine Outboard engines in the range from 2.5hp to 350hp 4.4-litre V6. 

• Introduced the world’s first Micro-Plastic Collecting Device for installation on outboard motors.

• Offered three different types of King Quad ATV available with 500cc, 500cc with PAS and 750cc with PAS. 

An impressive history and the firm celebrated by showcasing its current range on an admittedly not too challenging off-road circuit before showing the real off-road capabilities of its amazingly versatile commercial version of the Jimny on a much tougher course.

The Jimny is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, with its boxy profile, open mouth grille, muscular wheel arches and round headlights. Power seems modest from a 100hp 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.

Featuring the ALLGRIP four wheel drive system offers both high and low ratio drive and offers reassuring grip to make even novice off-roaders comfortable.

It’s capability is quite amazing tackling a stiff off-road challenge with ease. This included steep rocky climbs and descents and muddy tracks with tight turns and deep water pools.

Bikes and quads were also on display and Suzuki has a proud bike racing history, not least with former world champion Barry Sheene who was a British professional motorcycle racer. He competed in Grand Prix motorcycle racing and was a two-time world champion, winning consecutive 500cc titles in 1976 and 1977, His iconic bike with the famous No 7 was a display favourite.

The celebrations were rounded off with a spectacular display of marine power, first from a fishing boat, but a fishing boat with a difference and a high-powered Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB).

The fishing boat, with its high powered marine engine is capable of reaching nearly 40 knots, while the RIBs, being light and with a similar engine, are just that little bit quicker and the skippers put on an impressive display in Cardiff Bay, with a series of sprints, spectacular turns and the marine equivalent of donuts.

Suzuki’s future plans include  giving priority to CO2 emissions and developing electrification technologies. 

It will be interesting to see if the next 100 year will be as eventful as the last.

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