American Suzuki Motor Corporation has declared bankruptcy, ending the company's 29-year dip into the US automotive market. Suzuki's parent company will still sell motorcycles and ATVs here, just not cars and SUVs. Will anyone notice?
Suzuki made its biggest splash with the subcompact 1986 Samurai back in late 1985. The Samurai was a really cool little SUV that looked like the miniature offspring of Jeep and Land Rover, and sold extremely well until Consumer Reports reported in 1988 that the little SUV was highly susceptible to rollover. Sales declined, and the Samurai limped to an end in the US in 1995. The Samurai is still highly sought after as an off-road vehicle, supported by a vibrant aftermarket.
For 2012, Suzuki's lineup only included one actual SUV, the unibody Grand Vitara. I liked the Grand Vitara when I reviewed it back in 2006, when I considered it a viable alternative to the then-dominant Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V (come to think of it, they're still dominant). The SX4 AWD Crossover could be considered a crossover SUV, but it's really a hatchback car.
Suzuki has been fading from the marketplace for several years, so this bankruptcy is hardly a surprise -- but it is sad. There are several other manufacturers who should be looking over at Suzuki as an object lesson -- in particular, Mitsubishi, a company that suffers from the same kind of stagnant lineup that killed Suzuki. In the car business, you're either moving forward, or you're dead.
Rest in Peace, American Suzuki Motor Corporation.
Photo © Jason Fogelson