American Suzuki Motor Corp, 1985-2012

After 27 years American Suzuki Motor Corp. has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Though it will no longer be selling cars in the US, the motorcycle and ATV side of things will continue on. 

Suzuki was a latecomer to the US market, arriving in 1985 with the Cultus. They were rebadged by and sold via GM as the Chevy Sprint, including a unique 1.0 liter three-cylinder turbo version that immediately developed a rabid cult following that lasts to this day (the photo above was taken at the 2012 JCCS in September).

As it relates to cars, the actual Suzuki name was initially associated with the small yet rugged Samurai 4×4. It’ll probably be forever remembered that way too, as even to this day it’s probably the most recognizable Suzuki product ever sold in the US. That turned out to be a very Bad Thing for branding, because Consumer Reports promptly told everyone not to buy any, accusing them of being rollover-happy. Despite it all, however, its combination of light weight and serious off-roading gear (like a low range and transfer case) won it many devoted fans.

The Cultus and Samurai were succeeded by a the second-gen Cultus (called the Swift) and a small SUV (named the Sidekick, but which is actually very loosely related to the Pikes Peak dominating Escudo). Chevy sold both under the Geo brand as the Metro and Tracker. The rest of Suzuki’s tenure seems to be peppered with utterly forgettable sedans and an ill-advised dalliance with Daewoo while both were under GM ownership.

For the die-hard Suzuki fans (all five of you), fret not. Though the auto division is kaput in America, it’s still thriving elsewhere in the world. Suzuki is actually Japan’s fourth largest automaker by volume, ahead of Subaru, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Isuzu, bolstered by strong sales of its kei cars.

If you own a Suzuki, the company has said they’ll continue to support your warranties and keep a parts network around. You can keep up to date with this website.


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24 Responses to American Suzuki Motor Corp, 1985-2012

  1. Dutch 1960 says:

    Geo Metro, 3 cylinder, 50 mpg, kind of a cool little jellybean of a car. Owners swear by them. Already a used car favorite and can command a premium when in good shape. Suzuki underneath it all.

    The Suzuki Swift was a fun little cracker box of a car too.

  2. T.C.Martin says:

    My first car was a Suzuki Esteem. My father owned a Samurai and a Sprint Turbo. This article seriously just brought a tear to my eye 🙁

  3. vballin says:

    That’s too bad, sad to see them go =(

  4. E-AT_me says:

    honestly? this is a super shame. the Kizashi is a darn fine automobile.. to be honest, suzukis were all pretty good really.. although that ad is beyond horrible.. hahahaaa. i just couldn’t stop watching..

  5. Wagoneer says:

    Here in Europe Suzuki are popular because of the current and previous Swift, but that popularity was really built up by the old Vitara, Alto and Wagon R+ which were really good, simple and cheap cars. The current European Alto and Splash are pretty crap compared to the cars they replaced. With GM pushing Chevy (Korean built former Daewoo cars) in both Europe and the US, its no wonder Suzuki’s product line-up is looking very disconnected. The Kizashi is only available in a few European countries and too expensive for some markets. The new VW ‘Up’ and its siblings from Skoda and Seat make the Alto look like a balsa wood model. If they don´t address the lack of a decent beginer car and a proper Wagon R+ replacement, they could be forced out like Daihatsu were. Still wish they would bring cars like the Solio, Lapin and MR Wagon to Europe where these little town cars make a lot more sense. But we could also do with a decent Golf class model instead of the confused SX4.

  6. Emperor says:

    the biggest flaw of suzuki in my eyes is the fact that all newer models of them have Zero rust preventation.
    Ive seen Wagon R+´s with more rust than my 25years old nissan or 13years old toyota.
    The engines are great but ist useless when everything around it rott away in a month

    • Lukas says:

      You are right! Most new cars from Japan and Korea come completely without rust-protection, that´s almost normal now. Not not only the asian cars. I´ve had a new 2012 Ford Ranger Pick-Up (built in ZA) for a testdrive and it was completely naked on the underside. Some screws don´t even had paint on them!

      • Emperor says:

        reminds me of the Daihatsu GrandMove which already had rustholes after 3month after delivery………and that was inside the cabine *shock*

        or my Uncle which had to replace a fender on his 2005 Mercedes C-class cause rust was eating through
        I still kidding him and his love for Mercedes since that day

  7. Mad Murphy says:

    Interesting, here in NZ suzukis—especially the swift are extremely popular new cars. I test drive a 2012 swift sport manual a couple of months ago and it was a great little car to drive, seriously tempted to buy one so my AW11 can get restored.

  8. Tyler says:

    Wow. That commercial was terrible but I really enjoyed the miniature sets they used to make it “giant”.

    • Tyler says:

      Also, considering some of their best cars were not marketed under their name here, it’s no wonder they’re going under. Imagine if typing “Suzuki” into Craigslist yielded more than two results!

    • Ben says:

      That commercial was actually made by Suzuki Netherlands so it’s no wonder all the American-ness is super-exaggerated. Hilariously bad!

  9. Tom Westmacott says:

    The Swift is a great little car in its various versions, I’m sorry Suzuki couldn’t develop competitive products for the US market.

  10. Marc says:

    For a European Suzukigeek like me this very bad news. Howmany Japanese brands will follow? I own 7 Suzukis and I enjoy them all. They are reliable little cars. Even the oldest car which is 44 years old starts everytime. For me Suzuki is still a way of life 🙂

  11. jivecom says:

    Sad to read this, but then again I’m mad at suzuki right now (well not RIGHT NOW right now, but i was upset with them until today) because they never let me have a new swift. That’s been more or less the only new car in the mainstream market that I really wanted but couldn’t ever have. Oh well, at least i can try to live vicariously through others until the little scamp is 25 years old (only 20 more years to go until i can have the one i want!)

  12. socarboy99 says:

    I own an ’08 SX4 Sport sedan that I bought new. It’s been a great little car…too bad for Suzuki in the USA. I plan on keeping mine as long as possible; I guess I have two Japanese nostalgia cars…the other being a very clean 1990 Toyota pickup.

  13. jB says:

    “I love the smell of leaking transmission fluid in the morning”
    Acropolus Now.

  14. ProTree says:

    all five of us? are you kidding?

  15. Brooks says:

    Any idea how much of the design and engineering of my Canadian-built ’97 Geo Metro (that’s the second generation of Metro, and this one is the 4-cylinder) is Suzuki design vs. GM?

    It’s about to cross 150,000 miles, and has been a good little car. Sad that with the Geo nameplate being discontinued and now Suzuki going away (from the US), it’s an orphan twice over.

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