Suzuki finally made an official statement on the news that’s been circulating for weeks already with a press release today stating that the company “has decided to suspend temporarily its participation in FIM Road Racing Grand Prix MotoGP from 2012.” Unlike Kawasaki’s withdrawal from MotoGP back in 2008 however, Suzuki’s statement includes the words “temporarily”, in addition to adding that the company is, “Having an eye to returning to MotoGP in 2014, Suzuki will now focus on developing a competitive new racing machine for that class.” It’s been reported that Suzuki already has been testing a 1000cc MotoGP entry back in Japan, but reliability problems with the engine have been plaguing the project’s development.
Although the company was initially hit hard by the worldwide economic crisis, Suzuki Motor Corporation in Japan has rebounded well by cutting costs in numerous general and administrative areas, enabling it to post a bottom line growth of more than $284 million in the last quarter of 2011. The corporate management at Suzuki have always been fiscally conservative, but one area they always had enthusiasm for was Grand Prix racing. Perhaps exemplifying this was the fact that ever since the move to four-stroke MotoGP racing, Suzuki has foot the tremendous bill without the assistance of a major sponsor (the Rizla sponsorship is minimal according to insiders), unlike most of the other OEMs. In fact, Suzuki has been in Grand Prix racing since 1960, and the nearly all of the corporate management have worked their way up through the company since that time; thus most of them have fond memories of Suzuki’s Grand Prix triumphs throughout the years.
That fiscally conservative mindset has always been the underlying presence in their corporate decisions though, and current events have forced the company to focus on the long term rather than risk short-term financial health just for the sake of GP racing honor. One of those events has been the rapidly deteriorating relationship with German auto manufacturer Volkswagen AG, with whom Suzuki signed an alliance agreement back in late 2009 in exchange for selling an 19 percent share of the company to VW. Volkswagen wanted to utilize Suzuki’s expertise in manufacturing and economic foothold in developing countries (such as India, where Suzuki has a near-50-percent share of the auto market), while the Japanese were hoping to gain access to VW’s diesel and hybrid technology.
That exchange apparently didn’t happen, with Suzuki insiders saying that VW was dragging its feet on giving access to its diesel technology, resulting in VW becoming angered by Suzuki’s continuation of a diesel engine procurement contract with Fiat for the Japanese firm’s SX4 crossover vehicle (an agreement the two companies have been running since 2006). The relationship has now deteriorated to the point that Suzuki is offering to buy back the shares from VW and dissolve the alliance, while the German auto manufacturer has refused to sell back the investment. The spat will probably go into binding arbitration, a legal process that will take at least a year.
The Suzuki press release also stated that the company “will continue motocross racing activity and support of road racing activities using mass-produced motorcycles, by obtaining FIM homologation and co-operation with the supplier of its development racing kit parts.” The “mass-produced motorcycles” description obviously pertains to Superbike racing, with the racing kit developer mention pertaining to Yoshimura Japan, which handles the majority of the company’s superbike development. The venerated racing firm was mentioned in a press release from Crescent Suzuki (the former BSB team now heading to WSBK in 2012) as being the team’s engine development partner.