Drive Type: 4x4
Newburgh, Indiana, United States
Say what you will about its smallest SUVs, but you have to hand it to Suzuki: the likes of the Samurai, Sidekick and Vitara were doing the little-sport-ute-that-could thing long before most of the rest of the industry caught on. And the formula remains relevant enough that Suzuki is still selling the same basic Samurai overseas as the Jimny.
That could be why the Samurai still has something of a cult following. Well, that and the name - which, as it turns out, may not have been such a stretch after all. A Samurai warrior, after all, was just one man - but like any other knight, he was worth more than his headcount on the battlefield. Or in this case, a Japanese snowstorm. Just watch the half-minute video below to see what we mean.
The death of Suzuki's American automotive operations can be chalked up to many, many things. One thing it cannot be blamed on, however, is the arguable goodness of its products. The company's criminally underrated offerings included the Kizashi sedan, the SX4 compact and your author's personal favorite, the Grand Vitara.
The GV rode on a radically different version of General Motors' Theta platform, which underpins the American manufacturer's current crop of crossovers, like the Chevrolet Equinox. What made the Grand Vitara special, though, was that it wasn't just another run-of-the-mill CUV. Buying the cheapest model meant living with rear-wheel drive rather than the Theta's typical front drive. Spend a bit of money, though, and you'd end up with an honest-to-goodness off-roader, sporting selectable four-wheel drive complete with low-range gearbox. It also comfortably sat five, was reasonably efficient and was quite handsome. We aren't totally sure how it turned into this.
This, of course, being the new Vitara (it replaces the Escudo, the vehicle Americans know as the Grand Vitara), and it will make its global debut at October's Paris Motor Show, which has ditched its four-wheel-drive system for a part-time all-wheel-drive system called Allgrip.
American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC), which declared bankruptcy in early November, has been approved by the courts for up to $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing to enable it to shutter its US car business. ASMC had received a $45 million loan from the Japanese parent company, Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC), last month in order to make repayment deals with its franchise dealers. At the same time, ASMC was awaiting final court approval of this larger loan.
Out of the newly approved funds, $50 million can be used for operations, and oddly, the other $50 million can be put toward purchases of new inventory from SMC. That's right, even as existing inventory was headed for a smooth exit with the help of incentives, customer demand for orphan Suzuki models is so strong - last month's sales were up 22 percent compared to 2011 - that ASMC plans to purchase 2,500 additional cars from SMC that were built after the bankruptcy announcement. Good news for the owners of those vehicles: the top 50 dealers, representing more than 98 percent of ASMC sales, will become parts and services centers.
The press release below has more information. Unlike its recent tenure here, the end of Suzuki cars in the US looks like it's going rather well.