Suzuki Motor Corporation’s first real car, the Suzulight SF four-door sedan debuted in 1955. The SF designation stood for “Suzuki Four-wheel Car”. The front-drive model had a transversely mounted engine and was modeled after the German Lloyd LP400, which went on the market in 1953. The Suzulight platform also supported the development of a light van (SL), a small pickup truck (SP), and a delivery van (SD).
The next Suzuki automobile was the 1959 Suzulight TL. Bristling with features considered commonplace today, the Suzulight TL offered a folding rear seat and a large hatchback style opening at the rear of the vehicle. Thing is, the TL was a commercial vehicle. The passenger car variant appeared in 1962. Rather than a hatchback, the sedan used a conventional trunk and roll-down rear windows.
Those Suzulight models were very small automobiles. For comparison, the original Mini was longer, wider, and heavier than the Suzulight TL—which was larger than the Suzulight SF. However, the Suzulight had a larger wheelbase and ran bigger tires and wheels than the Mini.
The first Suzuki branded automobile appeared in 1965—the Suzuki Fronte 800. It ran a three-cylinder, two-stroke 785cc engine with a fully synchronized four-speed column-mounted manual transmission. Base and deluxe versions were available. Interestingly, it was offered as a two-door coupe only. The Fronte 800 was sold until 1969.
Though a number of new Suzuki models had been imported to the United States under an agreement with General Motors over the years, the first Suzuki-branded automobile to be offered here was the highly popular 1985 Suzuki Samurai small SUV. No other Japanese company had ever sold more new cars in the United States in its first year than Suzuki did with the Samurai. Available as either a convertible or hardtop, the new Suzuki models set the newly created American Suzuki Company off to a rousing start—until Consumer Reports labeled the Suzuki Samurai rollover prone in 1988.
Demand for the model fell off immediately. American Suzuki filed a lawsuit against Consumer Reports, which it won. But the damage was done. New Suzuki cars struggled unsuccessfully to regain traction in the United States. None of the subsequent Suzuki automotive offerings ever really caught on in this market. In November of 2012, Suzuki announced the bankruptcy of the American Suzuki Company, as well as its intention to stop selling cars in the U.S altogether.