40 Years of suzuki switzerland – from loom to global corporation

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40 years of Suzuki Switzerland

From loom to global corporation

Suzuki cars have been on the road in Switzerland for 40 years. But the story began much earlier.

The Suzuki story began in Switzerland with the LJ 80.

When you think of Suzuki, you usually think of engines: the brand is known for cars, boat engines and motorcycles.

But the history of the company, which now employs more than 50,000 people worldwide, begins in a completely different branch of industry.

Michio Suzuki founded his company in 1909 in Hamamatsu, 200 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, and successfully manufactured looms. Just eleven years later, the company went public. When it came to automobiles, Japan was still much weaker than Europe or the USA at the time, which is why Suzuki soon developed the first ideas for its own model. In 1936 he finally bought an Austin 7, which he and his engineers disassembled and studied in detail; In 1937, the company finally presented its first prototype for its own automobile – and shortly thereafter had to put the plans on hold again. Like many large factories, Suzuki had to focus on military orders during World War II. The production of goods classified as “non-essential” was severely restricted in Japan at the time. After the end of the war, Suzuki mainly built agricultural machinery and heaters in the factories that were not destroyed.

First on two wheels

The original plan to have your own car had to wait even after the war; a car would have been too expensive for the general public. Therefore, in 1952, Suzuki presented a motorized bicycle. The engine had 1 hp and was also available separately. The motorcycle business was good; In 1954 the company was renamed Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. around. The production of looms was discontinued. In 1955 Suzuki's first own car finally followed: the Suzulight with a 16 hp two-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive.

40 years of Suzuki Switzerland - from loom to global corporation-global

Suzuki has also been building outboard motors for boats since 1965.

Another important milestone in the company's history was set in 1965 when Suzuki offered the first outboard motor for boats – a business area that is still important for the company today.

Step to Europe

In Europe, the cars from Japan were relatively unknown for a long time. While Suzuki motorcycles have been available in Germany since 1969, automobiles only came to Europe in 1980; in the following year, Suzuki Automobile Schweiz AG started importing in this country. The first model was the compact LJ80 off-road vehicle, which quickly developed into a popular work aid and, thanks to its convertible fabric roof, also into a recreational vehicle. The LJ80 is just 3.20 m short and 1.40 m wide. For comparison: A current VW Golf is 1.08 m longer and almost 40 cm wider! Thanks to its compact dimensions, the LJ80 was a lightweight: it weighed just 800 kg and could tow loads of up to 900 kg! Compact dimensions, low weight, rigid axles and the switchable all-wheel drive including off-road reduction make the LJ80 an extremely talented off-roader even by today's standards. Naturally, the off-road vehicle is more comfortable on the road. The small four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 0.8 l achieves 41 hp; the press testers at the time were unable to determine a time for acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h – the all-terrain flea reached its top speed at 97 km/h. The LJ80 reached 80 km/h after 19.8 seconds. What spoke for the Suzuki back then: it was extremely affordable; it was available in Switzerland from as little as 11,490 francs.

Little by little, Suzuki expanded the model range and also increased its market share in Switzerland with affordable cars that, with simple, but useful and robust technology, appealed primarily to the pragmatist among drivers – then as now. The dealer network was constantly expanded in line with the range of vehicles. Nine of today's 220 Suzuki dealers were already active as representatives of the brand in 1981.

40 years of Suzuki Switzerland - from loom to global corporation-global

The Across is the first Suzuki with a plug-in hybrid drive.

Suzuki sees the fourth generation of the Swift, which came onto the market in 2005, as a breakthrough in Switzerland. The compact car achieved good sales figures, mainly because it was also available with all-wheel drive – a real rarity in this car class at the time. Even today, 4×4 drive is an important Suzuki trademark. Models like the Ignis or the iconic Jimny bring all-wheel drive to compact cars at affordable prices; only a few manufacturers can offer that. However, Suzuki also has to prepare for the future. This is not an easy task, especially for manufacturers who are at home in the lower price segments; new technologies and alternative drives are expensive. With the Swace and the Across, the Japanese now have two new models with hybrid or plug-in hybrid drives on offer. They are based on a partnership with Toyota – and give Suzuki the opportunity to explore new market areas. With a base price of CHF 57,990, the Across is the most expensive model that the brand has ever had in its price list in its 40-year history in Switzerland. But: It also offers more technology than any other Suzuki so far. It manages 75 km purely electrically, offers all-wheel drive and 306 hp – and consumes just 1.2 l/100 km. At that time, 10.1 l/100 km were measured for the LJ80!

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