Welcome to the 100 club
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.