Suzuki Exits US

This week Suzuki announced its immediate retreat from US auto market — while retaining its substantial motorcycle, marine engine, ATV and personal watercraft business.

Though Suzuki is a giant of Japanese industry — with impressive vehicle sales in throughout the world — its toe-hold in the US has always been tenuous.

In 1988 Consumers Reports sparked controversy when it gave the Suzuki Samurai –- a small jeep-style 4×4 — the first “not acceptable” rating issued for a car in a decade due to a high roll-over risk. They demanded Suzuki recall 160,000 Samurais, take the vehicle off the market, and give full refunds to Samurai owners.

Significantly Suzuki’s problems have always been bad marketing decisions more than vehicle quality. The Samurai was pitched as a fun little vehicle — in one TV spot being enjoyed by carefree teenagers! In fact the small 4×4 vehicle design attributes that has made Suzuki a powerhouse brand in emerging regions with poor roads, were wholly inappropriate for inexperienced young American drivers. More recently Suzuki’s ambitions with the SX4 sub-compact and Kizashi glam sedan as opposed to focusing on its line of acclaimed tough duty 4×4’s was wrong-headed.