The Japanese company that would become automotive firm Suzuki was founded in 1920 as the Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company. Founder Michio Suzuki took an interest in cars later and built some prototypes before the war, but it would be some years before production could begin. Post-war, Suzuki built motorized bicycles and would come to be known for small-engined products like motorcycles, ATVs, and outboard motors. Then, in 1955, Suzuki's first car, the Suzulight, was released, powered by a 360-cc two-stroke.
The engines and cars grew and evolved, and in the 1980s, the first Suzuki was imported to the U.S., called the Chevrolet Sprint. In 1986, the first Suzuki-badged passenger vehicle was released: the Samurai. The compact SUV had a successful commercial run until rollover concerns turned public opinion. Suzuki responded with the larger Sidekick, also badged as a Geo Tracker.
The Suzuki Swift, released in 1991, was also available as the perhaps more familiar Geo Metro. The tiny car was rated at 50 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Sidekick was renamed the Vitara in North America in 1999 and discontinued here in 2003. The larger Grand Vitara (previously called the XL-7) was introduced in 2001 and remains in production today. It stands as Suzuki's largest and most off-road-capable SUV, equipped with four-wheel drive.
Suzuki's first pickup was released in 2009. The mid-sized Equator is a rebadged Nissan Frontier, assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. It is available in either four-passenger extended cab or five-passenger crew cab forms. Notably, the truck was named 2009 4x4 of the Year by Petersen's 4Wheel & Off-Road magazine.
Suzuki's compact SX4 was developed for Europe and is also sold there as a Fiat Sedici, but was introduced to the U.S. in 2006. The SX4 sedan retails for $13,499, while the performance-styled and tuned "Sportback" version starts at $16,599. An SX4 crossover is also available, priced at $16,999.
In 2009, Suzuki released the mid-sized Kizashi. For 2011, the flagship model is equipped with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. A fuel-saving driver-activated FWD option is also available. A hybrid version was shown at the 2011 New York International Auto Show.
Though it may seem like a "small" company to Americans, Suzuki today ranks the ninth-largest carmaker in the world (due in no small part to its share of the auto market in India). Following three decades of producing rebadged cars for GM, the American automaker sold off the last of its Suzuki shares in 2008. In 2010, Volkswagen AG made a substantial Suzuki stock purchase, following the formation of a strategic alliance between the two companies in 2009. A Volkswagen-engined SX4 is planned for 2012, tentatively named the Volkswagen Rocktan.... View more