Suzuki Motor Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation headquartered in Hamamatsu, Japan that specializes in manufacturing compact automobiles and 4x4 vehicles, a full range of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), outboard marine engines, wheelchairs and a variety of other small internal combustion engines. Suzuki is Japan's 4th largest automobile manufacturer after Toyota, Honda, Nissan and the 9th largest automobile manufacturer in the world by production volume, employs over 45,000 people, has 35 main production facilities in 23 countries and 133 distributors in 192 countries. According to statistics from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), Suzuki is Japan's second-largest manufacturer of small cars and trucks.
In 1909, Michio Suzuki (1887–1982) founded the Suzuki Loom Works in the small seacoast village of Hamamatsu, Japan. Business boomed as Suzuki built weaving looms for Japan's giant silk industry. In 1929, Michio Suzuki invented a new type of weaving machine, which was exported overseas. Suzuki filed as many as 120 patents and utility model rights. The company's first 30 years focused 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 (9.7 kW) 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.
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 ingenuity 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 36 cc, one horsepower, 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 many racing victories when the tiny 60 cc "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 Suzuki 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.
Based in Gurgaon, India, Maruti Suzuki India Limited is Suzuki's largest and most valuable subsidiary with an annual production of 1,018,365 units in the fiscal 2009-2010. Suzuki has a 54.2% stake in the Indian auto giant and the rest is owned by the various Indian public and financial institutions. The company was incorporated in 1981 and is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange of India. In 2005-2006, the company had a 54% market share of the passenger car market in India. Nearly 75,000 people are employed directly by Maruti and its partners.
Maruti Suzuki was born as a Government of India company, with Suzuki as a minor partner, to make a lower priced car for middle class India. Over the years, the product range has widened, ownership has changed hands and the customer has evolved.
Maruti Suzuki offers 14 models, ranging from India's one-time best selling car, Maruti 800, for less than INR 200,000 (US$ 5000) to the premium sedan Maruti Suzuki Kizashi and luxury SUV, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. Maruti 800 was the first model launched by the company in 1983 followed by mini-van Maruti Omni in 1984. Both models were huge success in their respective categories because of the use of high-end technology and good fuel efficiency. Maruti Gypsy, launched in 1985, came into widespread use with the Indian Army and Indian Police Service becoming its primary customers. The short-lived Maruti 1000 too achieved moderate success until it was replaced by Maruti Esteem in 1994, to counter increasing competition in the medium-sedan category.
Maruti Zen, launched in 1993, was the company's second compact car model and also became extremely popular in India because of its high performance. The company went on to launch another compact car Maruti Wagon-R followed by Maruti Baleno in 1999. However, with increasing competition from Tata, Hyundai, Honda and Daewoo Motors, Maruti was not able to achieve the same success with Baleno as it had with its earlier models. So it replaced Maruti Suzuki Baleno with the Suzuki SX4. Currently Suzuki SX4 is facing stiff competition from the Honda City.
In 2000, Maruti Alto was launched. The launch of Tata Indica and Hyundai Santro had affected Maruti's sales but Alto helped secure the company's position as the auto leader in India. It is currently the largest selling car in India. The Maruti models include Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, launched in 2003, Maruti Versa, launched in 2004, Maruti Suzuki Swift, launched in 2005, Maruti Zen Estilo and Maruti Suzuki SX4, launched in 2007. The Alto, Swift and SX4 are leaders in their respective segments in the Indian Market.
On 14 February, Maruti Suzuki India, a Suzuki subsidiary in India, announced that it achieved one million total accumulated production volume of the Alto. The Alto has reached the million units mark in just seven years and five months since its launch on September 2000. The last half of the million has come in a record 25 months. The Alto has been India's largest volume-selling car, every month, for the past 37 consecutive months. Its popularity has continued to grow since its launch, with customers attracted to its low price with fuel efficiency. With this the Alto became the third car in the Maruti Suzuki stable to cross the million units mark. Previously, the Maruti 800 and the Omni had exceeded the million units mark. Besides its success in India, over 152,000 Altos made at Maruti Suzuki were delivered internationally, enjoying good outcomes in Algeria and Chile.
Maruti Exports Limited is the subsidiary of Maruti Udyog Limited with its major focus on exports and it does not operate in the domestic Indian market. The first commercial consignment of 480 cars were sent to Hungary. By sending a consignment of 571 cars to the same country, Maruti crossed the benchmark of 3,000,000 cars. Since its inception export was one of the aspects the government has been keen to encourage. Every political party expected Maruti to earn foreign exchange. But compared to Hyundai Maruti Suzuki is poor on export front.
Other subsidiary companies of the Suzuki Motor Corporation, Japan in India are:
- SUZUKI POWERTRAIN INDIA LIMITED: Manufacturers engines for cars
- SUZUKI MOTORCYCLE INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED: Manufactures two wheelers under brand name 'Suzuki'. Its two wheeler models launched in India are 'GS 150R, Intruder, Hayabusa 1300 cc, 125 cc Access, 125 cc Motorcycle Zeus.
- Chevrolet Sprint – United States/Canada (Suzuki Cultus)
- Pontiac Firefly – Canada (Suzuki Cultus)
- Geo Metro – United States (Suzuki Cultus)
- Holden Barina – Australia & New Zealand (Suzuki Cultus)
- Chevrolet Swift – South America (Suzuki Cultus)
- Chevrolet Cruze – Japan (Suzuki Ignis)
- Holden Cruze – Australia (Suzuki Ignis)
- Chevrolet MW – Japan (Suzuki Wagon R)
- Bedford Rascal – Europe (Suzuki Carry)
- Bedford Rascal – United Kingdom (Suzuki Carry)
- Holden Scurry – Australia (Suzuki Carry)
- Chevrolet Supercarry – South America (Suzuki Carry)
- Geo Tracker – United States (Sidekick/Vitara)
- Chevrolet Tracker – United States/Canada (Sidekick/Vitara)
- GMC Tracker – Canada (Sidekick/Vitara)
- Asüna Sunrunner – Canada (Sidekick/Vitara)
- Pontiac Sunrunner – Canada (Sidekick/Vitara)
- Chevrolet Vitara – South America (Sidekick/Vitara)
- Chevrolet Grand Nomad – South America (Suzuki XL7)
- Holden Drover – Australia & New Zealand (Suzuki Sierra/Jimny)
- Opel Agila – Europe (Suzuki Wagon R and Suzuki Splash)
- Chevrolet MW – Japan (Suzuki Wagon R)
- Vauxhall Agila – United Kingdom (Suzuki Wagon R and Suzuki Splash)