BACK in 1954, Suzuki Motor Co Ltd was formed and Michio Suzuki designed and developed his first automobile with his young engineering team, many of whom were in their 20s.
Using Suzuki’s ‘Yaramaika’ spirit, (translated as ‘Let’s do it’) Michio quickly began researching vehicles produced overseas, gaining a wealth of knowledge to build the first Suzuki car, known as the Suzulight.
Suzuki used several European models for benchmarking as well as an Austin 7 from the UK, a popular car of the era and available at a very reasonable cost.
The Suzulight was a compact and light vehicle weighing just over 500kg and was powered by a 360cc, 15PS two cylinder, two-stroke engine. It was way ahead of its time, fitted with independent coil spring suspension and rack and pinion steering.
The Suzulight easily met the Japanese ‘Keijidosha’ or Kei light car legislation and Michio and his team quickly began their first development road testing of it.
As a prototype car, its most memorable early drive was a long trip across the Hakone mountainous region between Hamamatsu and Tokyo which proved to be a real challenge as the 300km road was not paved at the time. Although arriving in Tokyo very late in the evening, the team arrived to present the car to the President of ‘Yanase Auto’ Japan’s leading authority on Automobiles. The President stayed on late to personally greet the team and made his way out to thoroughly test the car.
He returned very impressed some time later and immediately gave Michio and his team full approval to put the car into production. This commenced in October 1955 and Michio made his first two deliveries to doctors who used the car on their daily rounds. Initial production was three or four cars per month but by early 1956 monthly volume had climbed to 30 units.
It’s believed that only two of the original Suzulight cars exist now, both in the Suzuki Plaza Museum in Hamamatsu City, Japan.
64 years later, Suzuki remains globally renowned as the ‘small car experts’ and produces over three million cars per year. Michio Suzuki’s original strategy of the design and production of lightweight vehicles lives on with the latest platforms introduced for Ignis, Swift and Baleno. The next light new model to arrive from Suzuki will be the Swift Sport in June 2018, weighing in at just 970kg.