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. 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. For the first 30 years
of the company's existence, its focus was on
the development and production of these exceptionally
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
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 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 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.