Times are tough for Suzuki motorcycles: in 2008, when the world’s economy went into the toilet, Suzuki’s global sales plunged by 23.2 percent compared to the previous year. In 2009, things went from bad to worse, and Suzuki’s global sales dropped another 42.1 percent. Struggling financially, Suzuki skipped the 2010 model year for road bikes in the U.S., and laid off the bulk of their non-essential personnel. Brand loyalists had hoped for a turnaround in 2011, since the year the 50th anniversary of Suzuki’s racing debut.
So what do U.S. buyers get in 2011? As reported by Hell For Leather, essentially just new graphics for the Hayabusa. No anniversary edition GSX-R, no updated V-Strom, no rival to the Kawasaki Concours or the Yamaha FJR1300, no new cruisers, nada. On the plus side, the fact that Suzuki is once again brining in inventory should be seen as a positive sign, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s too little, too late.
Suzuki’s GSX-R 750 and GSX-R 1100 changed the face of sport riding when the were introduced in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Unlike earlier sport motorcycles (the Honda Interceptors, Kawasaki’s GPz) which were designed for street first, track second, the clean-sheet-of-paper design of the GSX-R was a racebike with lights. It was a no-compromise, comfort be damned crotch rocket that started more racing careers (and trips to the emergency room) than any other bike I can think of.
I hope that better days are ahead for Suzuki, because they’re a significant part of motorcycling history. The global downturn has already claimed Buell, an innovative manufacturer that never stood a chance under parent Harley-Davidson. Look around at your local dealerships; down here, it’s damn near impossible to find brands other than Harley-Davidson, Honda and Yamaha. Competition between manufacturers is what pushed motorcycle technology forward, and I’d really hate to think we’re seeing the beginning of the end of the powersports industry as we know it.