Suzuki started as a small company that built weaving looms in 1909. It was founded in a small village by the sea, called Hamamatsu, Japan. The founder, Michio Suzuki (1887 - 1982) invented an innovative type of the weaving machine, which he exported overseas. The company enjoyed success with its new product, but Michio Suzuki wanted to expand into other areas.
At the end of the 1930s, a need for cheap motorized transport started to emerge in Japan, so Suzuki wanted to profit from this and began work on the prototype of a compact car. These early vehicles were powered by a liquid-colled, four-stroke, four-cylinder 13 horsepower engine, an innovative design for that time.
The onset of World War Two meant that Suzuki stopped all development of its civilian cars, as they were deemed a non-essential commodity.
After the war, Suzuki went back to producing looms, but it was a short-lived experience, as the cotton market collapsed in 1951. Faced with this crisis, Suzuki returned to the production of motor vehicles. By 1954, Suzuki produced 6,000 motorcycles a month. One year later the first mass-produced automobile followed. It was named Suzulight and had front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering, all were features very uncommon at the time.
Above all, Suzulight was compact and cheap, two features extremely important in a post-war, still recovering Japan.
In the years following the success of the Suzulight, Suzuki developed its motorbike and automotive business worldwide. The brand's most successful care were mostly light and compact 4x4s, a trend that still continues to this day.
Volkswagen held a 19.9% non-controlling shareholding in Suzuki between 2009 and 2015. An international arbitration court ordered Volkswagen to sell the stake back to Suzuki. Suzuki paid $3.8bn to complete the stock repurchase in September 2015.