Greetings everyone! I wanted to share with all of you the tragic tale of how a very capable and affordable Japanese vehicle succumbed to the repercussions of bad media. The Japanese vehicle i speak of is the Suzuki Samurai.
Now before i get into the fall of this tiny titan, i should share a little background on the Samurai as well as the U.S. Suzuki market.
The Suzuki Samurai was the US model of the Suzuki Jimny , a line of small four wheel drive off road SUV´s. It was introduced in the US in 1985 and included a 1.3L four cylinder motor and was produced in convertible and hard top. The suspension was leaf spring and drive train included low range 4WD. Fuel injection was introduced a few years after the Samurai was rolled out . It was small, light and nimble which made for a perfect offroad vehicle.
When it was first offered it was priced at $6500 USD and sold a whopping 47000 vehicles in its first year. It was considered a great beginner offroader due to the simple design of the engine and suspension.
Its popularity grew so much that it was even shown in popular tv shows such as Baywatch
It also came to my attention that up and coming rapper Eazy-E owned a red Samurai in the early years of N.W.A.
The model was even shown in the movie Strait Outa Compton
The success of the Samurai was short lived though. It was capable enough to pose a serious threat to the Jeep Wrangler at a much lower cost. In 1988 Suzukis american dream came to an end when Consumer Report came out with an unfavourable review of the Samurai.
A staffer for the magazine had rolled his Samurai and the magazine attempted to duplicate the results. They modified their accident avoidance test to duplicate the results and when the vehicle tipped onto the outriggers the picture was posted all over their publication. They claimed the samurai was unsafe and prone to rollovers. By 1988 Suzuki sales in the US plummeted 70%. Due to their low sales Suzuki withdrew the Samurai from the U.S. and Canadian market in 1995.
In 1996 Suzuki sued the parent company of Consumer Report for libel seeking damages of $60 million USD. The lawsuit dragged on for almost a decade and ended up being settled out of court. Consumer Report then finally stated they never intended to imply the Samurai rolls over too easily under routine driving conditions.
Shortly after the lawsuit ended Suzuki obtained the Consumer Report test video which shows the company purposely changing the test as well as cheering when the Samurai rolled over. This video obviously showed the bias against Suzuki.
Since being pulled from the US market, the Samurai has become a collectors item and has held its value for years. My girlfriend was lucky enough to have the opportunity to buy a Samurai and it has since brought us to many places. I enjoy owning such a small fun vehicle and i hope you enjoyed learning about why you dont see more of these vehicles on the road.