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Suzuki is one of the world's "Big Four" motorcycle makers, offering a complete range of advanced street, off-road and race-winning machines. Globally, Suzuki is among the dozen top automakers, and sells more models than ever stateside. Inventor of the four-wheel ATV, Suzuki is dramatically expanding its QuadRunner lineup, and soon a new factory in Rome, GA, will manufacture them in the U.S. For boating enthusiasts, Suzuki serves up a wide array of outboard motors, many of them featuring electronic fuel injection and four-stroke power.
American Suzuki Motor Corporation is everywhere, on two wheels, four wheels and on the water. To help serve millions of customers nationwide, there are six corporate offices, staffed by hundreds of sales, technical, accessory and distribution staff. Across the country, there are more than 1,600 independently owned Suzuki dealerships. And the number is still growing.
For 2002, Suzuki model highlights will include a new sedan and wagon; a new "adventure-touring" motorcycle, plus updated RM motocross bikes; the all-new Vinson and Eiger sport-utility ATVs, and an all-new Z400 performance ATV; and the new, lightweight DF140 outboard with a fuel-injected four-stroke, four-cylinder power plant.
A Start in Textiles
Once again, Suzuki is continuing to build on its long, proud history.
Suzuki wasn't always the Motor Corporation. In 1909, Michio Suzuki founded the Suzuki Loom Company in the small seacoast village of Hamamatsu, Japan. Business boomed as Suzuki built weaving looms for Japan's giant silk industry. Suzuki's only desire was to build better, more user-friendly looms. For the first 30 years of the company's existence, its focus was on the development and production of these exceptionally complex machines.
Despite the success of his looms, Suzuki realized his company had to diversify and he began to look at other products. Based on consumer demand, he decided that building a small car would be the most practical new venture. The project began in 1937, and within two years Suzuki had completed several compact prototype cars. These first Suzuki motor vehicles were powered by a then-innovative, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-cylinder engine. It featured a cast aluminum crankcase and gearbox and generated 13 horsepower from a displacement of less than 800cc.
With the onset of World War II, production plans for Suzuki's new vehicles were halted when the government declared civilian passenger cars a "non-essential commodity." At the conclusion of the war, Suzuki went back to producing looms. Loom production was given a boost when the U.S. government approved the shipping of cotton to Japan. Suzuki's fortunes brightened as orders began to increase from domestic textile manufacturers. But the joy was short-lived as the cotton market collapsed in 1951.
The Motor Corporation
Faced with this colossal challenge, Suzuki's thoughts went back to motor vehicles. After the war, the Japanese had a great need for affordable, reliable personal transportation. A number of firms began offering "clip-on" gas-powered engines that could be attached to the typical bicycle. Suzuki's first two-wheel effort came in the form of a motorized bicycle called, the "Power Free." Designed to be inexpensive and simple to build and maintain, the 1952 Power Free featured a 36cc two-stroke engine. An unprecedented feature was the double-sprocket gear system, enabling the rider to either pedal with the engine assisting, pedal without engine assist, or simply disconnect the pedals and run on engine power alone. The system was so ingenious that the patent office of the new democratic government granted Suzuki a financial subsidy to continue research in motorcycle engineering. And so was born Suzuki Motor Corporation.
In 1953, Suzuki scored the first of countless racing victories when the tiny 60cc "Diamond Free" won its class in the Mount Fuji Hill Climb.
By 1954, Suzuki was producing 6,000 motorcycles per month and had officially changed its name to Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd. Following the success of its first motorcycles, Suzuki created an even more successful automobile: the 1955 "Suzulight." Suzuki showcased its penchant for innovation from the beginning. The Suzulight included front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering -- features common on cars half a century later.
Coming to the U.S.A.
Suzuki continued its motorcycle racing efforts, developing its engineering skills and learning everything it could. By 1962, Suzuki was in Europe winning the first-ever 50cc Grand Prix World Championship. A year later, Suzuki won the title again, as well as the 50cc class at the classic Isle of Man TT.
It was also in 1963 that Suzuki brought its newest motorcycles to America. Success came quickly by offering riders a new level of value and reliability with a fast-growing line of motorcycles. Most notable were Suzuki's two-stroke vertical twins. In 1966, the X-6 Hustler became Suzuki's first true street-legal performance machine, and the fastest Japanese 250cc of the time. A 500cc model, the Titan, soon followed, and remained in Suzuki's lineup until the 70s.
Suzuki also began competing and winning off-road. In the World Motocross Championships, long dominated by European makes, Suzuki won the 1971 500cc title with the help of Roger DeCoster. Soon to be a racing legend, the Belgian and his bright yellow Suzukis won the World Championship four more times, in 1972, '73, '75 and '76. Suzuki extended its MX success with an incredible string of victories in the 125cc World Championship, winning the eight-liter title from 1975 to 1984. And Brad Lackey became America's first 500cc World Motocross Champion on his works Suzuki in 1982.
Stateside between 1975 and 1990, riders Darrell Schultz and Danny LaPorte (500cc), Kent Howerton and Tony DiStefano (250cc), Mark Barnett (125cc and 250cc Supercross) and Guy Cooper (125cc) would all win national championships with Suzuki.
Back on the road, Suzuki's two-stroke line grew to include a series of in-line triples, capped off by the GT750 -- the largest mass-production liquid-cooled two-stroke street bike ever offered to the public. Briefly, in 1975, Suzuki experimented with Wankel rotary-engine technology, introducing the now-collectible, short-lived RE5. And Suzuki's Grand Prix road racing efforts expanded to the premier 500cc class. Briton Barry Sheene won two-straight World Championships aboard the exotic RG500 square four. This enduring race bike would go on to two more title wins in 1981 and 1982 with Italians Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini riding.
But with tightening emissions standards, four-stroke inline fours would lead Suzuki's charge starting in 1976. The new GS750 boasted a relatively short stroke, double overhead cams, double disc brakes and fine handling. The GS1000 that soon followed was arguably the best one-liter four-cylinder of its time. The GS series worked well on the track, too, and Wes Cooley and Yoshimura won the young AMA Superbike Championship for Suzuki. By the early 1980s, Suzuki had firmly staked out its territory as a major player in the market for tough, reliable, high-performance road machines.
Suzuki Goes Off-Shore, and All-Terrain
In 1977, Suzuki took to the water, forming a new company to market its proven outboard motors in the U.S. By the 1980s, Suzuki was selling a complete lineup of two-stroke motors, ranging from a modest two-horsepower model to a mighty 225-horse outboard. Along the way, Suzuki introduced a series of technological breakthroughs: oil injection, dual-plug heads and MicrolinkTM, a computerized control system for optimal engine timing. To demonstrate its confidence in the product, Suzuki also broke through with the industry's first three-year limited warranty -- the longest ever offered on a full line of marine motors, then or now.
In 1982, Suzuki took the lead in the hot new market for all-terrain vehicles by introducing the first four-wheel ATV: the top-selling QuadRunner LT125. This model led to Suzuki's ATV tagline of today: "First on Four Wheels." A full line of Suzuki Quads followed the LT125, and competing manufacturers soon offered their own four-wheeled ATVs.
Suzuki Brings its Cars Stateside
Through the early 80s, Americans largely knew Suzuki for its motorcycles. But Suzuki's automotive division overseas kept growing. For 30 years, Suzuki had been building a reputation in Japan as a top manufacturer of small cars. Much of the four-wheel focus was on four-wheel-drive models with serious off-road abilities. In 1970, the LJ10 became Japan's first mass-market 4x4.
It wasn't until 15 years later, though, that Suzuki introduced its automotive line to the US In 1985, American Suzuki opened its automotive division and was the first manufacturer in the United States to offer a compact sport-utility vehicle. While small in size, the Suzukis featured real off-road design features such as ladder-type frames, four-wheel drive and two-speed transfer cases. Suzuki's revolutionary SUVs were snapped up by hundreds of thousands of Americans who wanted a tough, sporty, and practical means of transportation. And on rugged off-road trails across the country, you'll still find some of these original Suzuki 4x4s -- scratched and scraped, and with some serious mileage, but still climbing rocks and hills alongside the best of today's four-wheelers.
As with its motorcycles, Suzuki raced its cars. And staying true to its off-road heritage, Suzuki has long competed in one of America's premier off-road races, the famed Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Since 1992, Suzuki has either won or come in second an amazing seven times thanks to Suzuki Motorsport's six-foot-plus superstar driver, Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, and some incredible cars producing 800-1000 turbocharged horsepower.
Back in Monster's homeland, the Suzuki Wagon R was Japan's top-selling vehicle from 1997 to 2000, posting sales of nearly 250,000 units per year. In the process, Suzuki Motor Corporation has become the 12th largest automotive company in the world, with sales of nearly 1.8 million units per year. In 2000, Suzuki became the Fastest Growing Japanese Auto Company in America, increasing sales by an amazing 22 percent over the previous year.
The growing popularity of Suzuki's in the US was helped by several innovations, including the Grand Vitara, unveiled in 1998 and the first V6-powered small SUV. In 2001, another new Suzuki moved to the top of the firm's sales charts with the introduction of the XL-7 - the first affordable seven-passenger SUV and the largest Suzuki yet built. In the 16 years since Suzuki had sold its first automobiles in the States, the lineup had expanded from one vehicle to six, including SUVs, sedans and wagons. More new models are on the way.
More Racing Success
While Suzuki was just starting up the compact SUV craze, its roadracing motorcycles had already earned a winning reputation at the highest levels of racing.
In 1986, Suzuki originated the mass-production repli-racer Superbike with its revolutionary GSX-R750. Never before had a bike so racy been offered to so many riders. The first GSX-R was distinguished by its full fairing, a then-unusual square-tube aluminum frame, and design features that made the Suzuki by far the lightest bike in its class. This signature Suzuki motorcycle, backed by an outstanding contingency program that paid riders for results, became the omnipresent club racing machine. Many of the best American riders of the last 15 years honed their skills on GSX-Rs and some rode to championships and Daytona glory.
A young, fearless Kevin Schwantz won the Daytona 200-miler in 1988 and numerous other Superbike races on GSX-Rs prepared by Yoshimura R&D. Jamie James added to the Superbike championship tally with a title win in 1989. And Suzuki started its longtime ownership of the near-stock AMA 750cc Supersport Series. Since 1996, Suzuki has won every 750cc SS title, and virtually every race.
More GSX-Rs followed the original 750; an 1100, then a 600. New versions appeared year after year, and some proved nearly as revolutionary as the first. In 1996, Suzuki unveiled an all-new 750 with a liquid-cooled engine and twin-spar aluminum frame. Lighter than some of its competitors by 40-plus pounds, the new GSX-R ruled Supersport racing. With the help of Aussie Mat Mladin, this GSX-R claimed back-to-back AMA Superbike Championships in 1999 and 2000. If that wasn't enough, the smallest GSX-R won its share of AMA 600cc Supersport races, and a championship in 1998. Under the care of Team Valvoline Suzuki, the big 1100 won a long string of WERA National Endurance Championships.
In 2001, Mladin and Yoshimura debuted yet another new low-mass GSX-R750 at Daytona, and easily won the event. The year also saw the debut of the outrageous GSX-R1000, featuring class-leading horsepower packed into a ridiculously light 375-pound motorcycle. Like the 750 before it, the new 1000 won various bike-of-the-year honors worldwide.
While the GSX-Rs collected most of Suzuki's road racing trophies, other notable wins came around the world. Schwantz, who cut his racing teeth on GSX-Rs, went on to numerous 500cc Grand Prix victories, and won the World Championship on his Suzuki RGV500 in 1993. Kenny Roberts Jr. joined Team Suzuki in 1999 and won a slew of races on his Suzuki V-four before winning his first 500cc World Championship during the 2000 season.
Suzuki once again was on top of the pinnacle of all motorcycle racing. And, back home in America, Angelle became the first woman to win the NHRA Pro Stock Bike title that same year. In 2001, she surpassed the famous Shirley Muldowney in NHRA victories, becoming the most successful woman on the drag strip ever.
Off the pavement, Suzuki saw increasing success as well. In the mid-1990s, under the guidance of Roger DeCoster (now motocross team manager), Suzuki claimed 125cc AMA East and West Coast Supercross Championships. DeCoster watched over the pro-class rise of teen phenom Travis Pastrana, who scored a 125cc Supercross Championship in 2000, and went on to win the AMA 125cc Outdoor National Championship, too. In 1999, South African Greg Albertyn won the AMA 250cc Outdoor National Championship. Before coming to the States, "Albee" had won the 250cc World Motocross Championship for Suzuki. Frenchman Mickael Pichon recaptured that biggest of motocross crowns onboard a factory Suzuki in 2001. To date, among all classes, Suzuki has won more than two dozen World Motocross Championships.
Finally, Suzuki RMs have dominated the newest form of motocross racing, Arenacross, with the help of multi-time champion Buddy Antunez. The Californian has won over 100 events and is still going strong.
Award-Winning Technology on the Water
While Suzuki motorcycles dominated on many racetracks, Suzuki outboards continued to win over boat owners with the best selection and best warranties offered by any manufacturer. In 1998, Suzuki introduced the industry's first four-stroke, electronic fuel-injection outboards in the 60-70 horsepower class. These new motors were the first to combine clean, quiet and efficient four-stroke technology with the performance of digital sequential electronic fuel injection. The Suzukis were honored in winning the prestigious IMTEC (International Marine Trades Exposition and Convention) Innovation Award.
In 1999, Suzuki went the next step and introduced the first four-stroke EFI outboards in the 40-50 horsepower class. Suzuki again won the prestigious IMTEC Innovation Award for advancements not found on any other motors in their class, including a four-valve-per-cylinder/dual-overhead-cam design, digital electronic fuel-injection, and a pulse-tuned, long-branch intake manifold. These breakthrough products have made Suzuki a world leader in EFI four-stroke outboard technology.
For 2001, Suzuki expanded its advanced four-stroke outboard line with the addition of two new models -- the DF90 and DF115. These motors brought Suzuki's renowned electronic fuel-injected four-stroke efficiency, performance and reliability to a whole new class of boaters. Now, owners of offshore fishing boats, pontoon boats, aluminum boats, fiberglass skiffs and more can all enjoy Suzuki's advanced engineering.
The Suzuki Tradition Continues
What was once a small group of dedicated engineers, designing the world's finest weaving machinery, has today grown into a worldwide company of almost 15,000 people, who create and distribute products in more than 190 nations. Worldwide, Suzuki sells nearly 1.8 million vehicles a year, surpassing the sales of such renowned marques as BMW, Mercedes and Saab. Suzuki motorcycles are the first choice of more than 2 million riders every year. And global sales of Suzuki outboards continue to grow.
Throughout the new millennium, on two wheels, four wheels, and on the water, Suzuki aims to continue its tradition of technological trailblazing, and appealing to customers who demand unique design, value, reliability and superior engineering.