“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is one of those philosophical questions to make the idle disappear up their own arse asking or something for the marketing execs at the Suzuki Motor Corporation to ponder.
Despite celebrating its 100th anniversary this month, there hasn’t been much news about its celebrations. Strange, considering we live in a time where marketing types would put any insignificant milestone on a pedestal to stir up a quick and easy amount of hype like a vegetarian being given a sliver of attention, knowing there is an eager press ready to spread it.
Then again, Suzuki’s centenary couldn’t have come at an inopportune time, with the coronavirus pandemic bringing much of society to a standstill, it’s bad taste to celebrate 100 years of being in business at a time when many others are at real risk. Not only that, but celebrations on Suzuki’s part also seem subdued, with the only things marking the occasion being a neat website and a new logo symbolising infinity. No special commemorative models or concept cars to speak of, yet.
That being said, unlike many 100-year old motor vehicle manufacturers out there, Suzuki hasn’t made any significant landmarks, at least when it came to four-wheel vehicles.
Now, this might sound more roast than toast, but Suzuki’s back catalogue is devoid of the sort of incredible halo cars that gave men a raging stiffy and rearranged the bedroom posters of adolescents around the world. There was no one car or truck in Suzuki’s past that can be named as being responsible for establishing the Suzuki name in the hearts and minds of consumers and making it a force to be reckoned with.
If there is one concurrent trend amongst Suzuki’s past creations it is making small cars. From the Cultus to the Swift, the indomitable Jimny and to the affable Cappuccino, Suzuki has a penchant for making pint-sized charmers that were truly cheap and cheerful. And it is not as though Suzuki hasn’t tried to make anything bigger or more aspirational.
In 2009, a rather fortuitous era one might say, Suzuki tried to breach the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord market with the Kizashi. For a first try, the Kizashi was remarkably well received by pundits, and quickly became a cult favourite, which is another way of saying reviewed well but it sold like fresh cowpat. Add that to Suzuki’s abysmal track record with its three-row XL7 SUV and Nissan Frontier-based Equator pick-up, and you’d think that Suzuki had some sort of gypsy curse on the size of its… portfolio.
Considering that nearly all great car manufacturers had cut their teeth building tiny budget cars before eventually moving upmarket, Suzuki’s inability to go beyond its small car niche makes it the living fossil of the motoring world. Stuck in a primordial form that it can’t leave. Adding in the fact that Suzuki’s greatest achievements are to be found in its two-wheeled creations, such as the iconic Katana and the legendary Hayabusa doesn’t help the company’s case either.
However, despite seemingly resigned to a fate in small affordable cars, Suzuki is no sick man of Japan. It is still one of only three mainstream companies in the world that have a long history in producing both cars and motorcycles, and even though it might not be producing the sort of cars that people dream about, the fact that the company is in, or near, the top ten largest car manufacturers on its own is worthy of high praise, even if it isn’t making peep on the current news cycle.