Wel­come to the 100 club

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

THERE will be a lot of an­niver­saries this year. The big­gest is prob­a­bly the 50th birth­day of the orig­i­nal Mini, but there are also cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions for two very dif­fer­ent car­mak­ers.

Audi and Suzuki are cel­e­brat­ing 100 years in busi­ness.

The Audi brand ac­tu­ally goes back fur­ther, to a com­pany founded by Au­gust Horch in 1901, but its of­fi­cial his­tory be­gan when he started mak­ing cars un­der the latin trans­la­tion of his Ger­man name.

So Audi has a long his­tory and among its many in­ter­est­ing sto­ries is the use of four in­ter­locked rings as its cor­po­rate sym­bol. They stand for the four in­di­vid­ual brands that once made up the Audi com­pany — Audi it­self, DWK, NSU and Auto Union.

But few peo­ple re­mem­ber Audi was owned by Daim­ler-Benz in the 1950s, be­fore be­com­ing part of the Volk­swa­gen em­pire.

Suzuki is a very dif­fer­ent story. It was not a car­maker at all in the early days.

Mi­chio Suzuki founded a loom com­pany in 1909 in the city of Ha­ma­matsu in Ja­pan and not un­til 1937 did he see the po­ten­tial to build a small car. Af­ter two years and a range of pro­to­types, he set­tled on a tiny car with an 800cc, four-cylin­der en­gine.

That model was used when Suzuki re­turned to mak­ing cars af­ter World War II. It has made the com­pany the largest Ja­panese maker of com­pact cars, which it even badges for sale as Nis­sans.

But it was not an easy run. The loom mar­ket col­lapsed af­ter the war and Suzuki re­built his com­pany with a mo­torised bi­cy­cle called the Power Free. Aus­tralia was one of the first com­pa­nies to im­port Suzukis — a batch of 125cc Colleda bikes ar­rived in Jan­uary 1960.

The break­through here came with the ar­rival of the first Suzuki 4WD, the baby LJ10, in 1968.

Since then a range of rugged lit­tle off-road­ers has done the job, up to the lat­est Jimny and more lux­u­ri­ous Grand Vi­tara.

Sales have jumped more than 200 per cent in Aus­tralia since 2004, mak­ing Suzuki the coun­try’s fastest-grow­ing brand.

Glob­ally, Suzuki is still rel­a­tively small — it has only 50,000 em­ploy­ees— but its prod­ucts sell in more than 190 coun­tries. Its pro­duc­tion to­tal of two mil­lion ve­hi­cles a year, matched by a sim­i­lar num­ber of mo­tor­cy­cles and a grow­ing num­ber of out­board motors, puts it ahead of Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and BMW in world­wide sales.

Growth: Suzuki’s cen­te­nary range shows how far the firm, orig­i­nally a loom maker, has come.

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