Suzuki celebrates 100 years

Celebrating a 100th year anniversary is a rather big achievement, especially for an automotive brand. Many have closed their doors over the years, many have been sold and renamed but few have stayed true to form. One of those is budget-beating Japanese brand Suzuki, which is seeded in quality design, build and innovation.

When a young and ambitious Michio Suzuki officially registered the Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company in 1920, he surely could not have foreseen that it would become a global automotive, motorcycle and marine powerhouse 100 years later. From those early days, the founder, Michio Suzuki, had his sights set on diversification and specifically on automobiles and motorcycles, which he saw as a way of helping his countrymen become more productive and prosperous.

In much the same way, when Suzuki Auto South Africa, which represents all three divisions in South Africa, opened its doors in February 2008, the company could not have foreseen that it would be a top 6 best-selling brand and undisputed budget-vehicle champion as the centenary celebrations rolled round. “We are humbled by the way South Africans have readily accepted Suzuki into their lives. In June 2008, our first month of sales, we sold 230 units and by October this year, we hit a new record of 2 032 units, while being South Africa’s fastest-growing brand several times during the past decade,” says André Venter, divisional manager for sales and marketing at Suzuki Auto South Africa.

The Swift was one of the first products to enter South Africa and it was instrumental in helping Suzuki reach 50 000 sales in South Africa by mid-2017. The fourth generation Jimny, which was first launched in South Africa in 2018, has immediately become another top-seller for the brand, with its innovative design and go-anywhere capabilities finding favour with city dwellers and budget conscious overlanders alike. “This year the Jimny celebrates five decades of being the quintessential budget-beating off-road vehicle, capable of taking on even the toughest conditions without requiring major conversions or costing you an arm and a leg. It is no surprise that it has become one of our best-selling vehicles overall,” says Venter.

Be sure to log your favourite Jimny memory and be part of history:

On its way to becoming a top-selling brand, Suzuki won the hearts and respect of South African media as well. In its first year of operation, Suzuki was voted the Manufacturer of the Year in the annual CAR Awards, while the Swift and SX4, both launched a mere six months earlier, were nominated for the SAGMJ Car of the Year competition. In fact, almost all of the models offered by Suzuki has received a Car of the Year nomination and in 2019 the Swift and Jimny won the category prizes for best compact and lifestyle utility vehicles respectively.

Adding to the brand’s success, Suzuki Auto merged with Suzuki Motorcycle and Suzuki Marine in April 2014 with both divisions scooping industry awards and sales records year-after-year.

“Now, more than ever before, South Africans are looking for affordable cars, motorcycles and marine equipment that they can trust. We believe that Suzuki, with its 100-year-old ethos of providing value-for-money products with Japanese quality and stylish looks, is best positioned to fill that need, and we look forward to welcoming more South Africans to the family in the next year, decade and century.” 

The Road to Global Success

Suzuki as it exists today was born from Suzuki Loom Manufacturing, which was started in 1920. From these early days, the founder, Michio Suzuki, had his sights set on diversification and specifically on automobiles and motorcycles, which he saw as a way of helping his countrymen become more productive and prosperous.

The first Suzuki vehicle prototype was launched in 1937, but the commercialisation was put on hold when the Second World War broke out. Fortunately, the plans were never abandoned and in 1954 Suzuki assigned a team of young and energetic engineers to the automobile project, which in 1955 – a mere year later – led to the introduction of the Suzulight.

“The Suzulight laid the foundation for all future Suzuki models, offering a light, affordable, frugal and durable car that made quality motoring accessible to all. In much the same way, the Suzuki Power Free powered bicycle of 1953 set us on a course to become a global motorcycle brand; it was in our DNA from the very start,” says Venter.

On its way to becoming a global powerhouse, Suzuki made the world sit up and take note. In 1970, it launched an all-electric version of its Suzuki Carry Van, which was designed by Giorgetto Giugiario. This was also the year that the world was introduced to the Jimny, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Suzuki Marine has come a long way since creating the first Suzuki outboard, D55, in 1965 and the current range of four stroke outboards is second to none in the marketplace. Suzuki engineers are passionate about boating and spend all of their time perfecting fuel-efficient and technologically advanced four stroke outboard motors so that Suzuki products enable boaters to maximise their time on the water.

In 1975, Suzuki again made headlines when its motorcycle division launched the RE-5, a rotary-engined motorcycle with previously unheard off performance figures, and in 1979, it launched the world’s first hydrogen-powered vehicle.

In later years, the biking world was stunned with Suzuki’s introduction of its futuristic GSX1100S Katana. The bike’s aggressive styling and superb performance made it a huge sales success, both globally as well as in South Africa. Its impact was so great, that Suzuki continued development on this model and introduced the latest GSXS1000S Katana in 2018. Suzuki broke the mould once again with the unveiling of the GSX1300R Hayabusa in 1999. This iconic motorcycle was the fastest production motorcycle in its time.

Suzuki Motorcycles is also synonymous in the world of motorcycle racing and to date have proved that they are a force to be reckoned with. The brand has won 16 FIM Superbike world Endurance titles and since their reintroduction into the MotoGP scene have racked up a number of podiums and wins.

In the eighties, Suzuki entered the Indian market and soon became the best-selling brand overall, and it launched its first all-terrain vehicle (ATV), creating a motorcycle sub-segment that remains popular to this day.

For more on Suzuki’s history, a host of fun activities and handy road trip guides:

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