Suzuki was founded in 1909 as a manufacturer of looms for textile weaving -- the same type of business that launched what became Toyota Motor Corp.
Suzuki produced its first automobile in 1955 and began exporting vehicles in the 1980s, with its first U.S. sales in 1985.
American Suzuki Motor Corp. started with a single model, the SJ -- also called the Samurai. The Jeep-like four-wheel-drive vehicle provided a low-cost alternative to some of the other off-road-capable vehicles that were then beginning to capture the attention of American motorists.
The model looked like a hit until 1988, when Consumer Reports magazine reported the results of a test it had devised for the new class of trucks called sport utility vehicles.
The publication said the Samurai, with its high center of gravity, could roll over when making sharp turns in its accident-evasion maneuver.
The resulting negative publicity caused a sharp slump in Samurai sales. The SJ is still sold in other countries, but it was subjected to a slow death in the U.S. and finally withdrawn in 1995.
Consumer Reports' test was the subject of a lengthy and acrimonious court battle after the magazine resurrected it for an advertising campaign in 1996 and Suzuki filed a product disparagement lawsuit against publisher Consumers Union. The case was dismissed in 2004 as Suzuki and Consumers Union agreed to disagree about the test's validity.
Used Samurais remain popular among hard-core off-road enthusiasts, however. Koichi Suzuki, president of American Suzuki Motor Corp.'s automotive operations, said the subject of the Samurai almost never comes up, except when a fan calls the headquarters in Brea seeking parts.