V-Strom Models

The Suzuki V-Strom motorcycle family has three models:
  1. DL-1000 (AKA "The Vee"), 2003-2012
  2. DL-650 Gen 1 (AKA "The Wee"), 2004-2011
  3. DL-650 Gen 2 (AKA "The Glee"), 2012-Current
  4. DL-1000 Gen 2 (AKA "The Veek"/"Vee2"), 2013-Current


This V-Strom family started from the Suzuki German HQ, driven by Bert Poensgen
The model was Suzuki's response to leading adventure tourer models in Europe, in particular BMW GS 1150 and Honda Varadero, after the DR-BIG model has been discontinued.

Mr. Michio Suzuki founded 1909 in Hamamatsu a factory for weaving machines.

During WWII the factory was totally destroyed. From 1946 Michio survived by producing many different items of daily need, from springs to seawater de-salting equipment. During a bicycle ride to his favorite angling spot he got tired of pedaling. He thought he needs to do something to help him with it. And if he feels it is useful, then others sure would like it as well. That his how Suzuki brought 1951 a powered bicycle, using a 36 cc 1 hp engine. The little engine could also be attached to any other bike.
external image suzuki-02.jpg

Michio's endeavors into the two wheeler business went well. Soon they were so busy with motorized bicycles and small motorbikes that all the other production segments became secondary (until people could afford cars). In Germany the business grew continuously as well. In September 1982 Suzuki Germany was founded. Mr. Bert Poensgen was employed as the sales manager for Germany (on the right):
external image suzuki-21.jpg

With the launch of the BMW G/S the adventure tourer segment was founded, and with the launch of the Africa Twin it was cemented as a relevant market segment within several West European countries. In order to compete with the successful Honda AT, Bert Poensgen started pushing Suzuki HQ's to do something in this direction. That is how it came in 1987 to the Suzuki DR 750, or Doctor Big as we called her:
external image suzuki-14.jpg

The concept was very good and the machine was a sensational ride. But mediocre workmanship let the sales down. The market decided for the less peppy and heavier but much more solid Honda AT.

In the beginning of the nineties the adventure tourer sales soared up even more. BMW sold the GS like hotcakes, despite their premium prices. Honda continuously improved and refined on the Africa Twin. It got a sister model with more street bias meanwhile, the Transalp. Suzuki should have learned from the what was needed in this market segment. The Dr. Big was taken out from the market instead.

Over the course of the years BMW GS sales continued to grow even more. By end of the 90's the GS was a very powerful force in many Euro-markets. One who went on a weekend ride through the Alps could see the traditional biker greeting every second time from a GS - well almost. Honda had not developed the AT much further, but was able to snatch a respectable share with their new 1000 cc Varadero, launched in 1999.

Suzuki's Gerd Poensgen again started pushing the HQ for a big adventure tourer model. And now even Honda had shown them the way by using a detuned sport V2 motor.

The R 1100 and R1150 went into the wrong direction (too heavy). Engine-wise the technology was meanwhile far behind the times, and the boxer mainly living from it's myths.

Still, Suzuki HQ saw things differently. They argued that they were burned from the DR 750 experience, and that Suzuki's competency is based in the sport segment. After several years of struggle with the persistent Poensgen, they finally agreed something with the German HQ - which is also the European HQ.

The plan said they would take orientation on R 11xx GS with sizes, ergos, etc., but do something significantly sportier in order to stay aligned with the brand image. It had to be a motorcycle with around 1000 cc and two cylinders. The goal was: be better, be lighter, and to be sportier and "younger" than the 1150 GS (with its senior image).

At the same time the SV1000 idea was born, in order to make up for the TL1000 disaster, and to get the V2 engine produced in higher numbers. Now the Mediterranean dealers started complaining, because these markets widely prefer motorcycles smaller than 1000 cc. The Africa Twin and the Transalp are still very famous in Italy, Spain, Greece, France, etc.. That is how the decision was taken to develop two models. Indeed, the DL1000 and the DL650 development started at the same time.

The DL1000 was launched by the very late 2001 as the V-Strom, with the V being the reference to the engine, and Strom just a word that is somehow European and could be interpreted in some way as 'flow' or 'movement'. The character Suzuki choose for the bike was the word monster "Enduro-Sport-Tourer."

I bought one of the first V-Strom K2's. Here in Singapore it was the second unit. The first unit was a yellow one, sold to the shop's person who uncrated it. The dealer was trained by Suzuki. He told me "This is serious, it will beat the GS".

Indeed, over the next 12 months it won almost every comparison test in the German speaking Europe, against the competitors R 1150 GS and Honda Varadero. Until Honda launched the vastly upgraded 2. gen Vara, which was in December 2002. Many considered the Honda to be better than the 1150 GS. Of course both were comfortable but heavy pigs, but Honda had power where the GS just had vibes. Of course BMW was already busy in the background.

The success of the Vara was a thorn in BMW's hide. The GS development was accelerated, and the upgrade model R 12 GS launched too early. Some catastrophic failures are the result. Still its mission was accomplished, since it distracted almost complete the attention from the Varadero when it was launched.

At the same time Suzuki failed to respond to a (comparable small) clutch problem on the DL1000. Plus some other small issues showed up, which plagued the DL1000 in the first 1 1/2 years. They alienated customers by saying the chattering and vibrating clutch is normal, the stalling and farting engine " is due to the fact that, "It is not a 4 cylinder, but the way a V2 runs", and the hydraulic cylinder was called a wear part for which it is normal to leak after 15 - 20,000 km. The V-Strom's reputation in Europe went down the drain - despite the DL1000 actually being very solid construction with outstanding reliability.

By the time the DL650 K4 was launched, Suzuki had actually silently addressed most points. But the damage was done. The market reacted with great hesitation towards the first DL650, the K4. In 2004 DL1000 sales were less than half from the numbers before.

Only nowadays - starting from the mid of 2007 - we can see a change in the perception of interested buyers, who slowly seem to understand the DL650 is a much bigger (and better) motorcycle than the name implies, and see it as a solid and reliable motorcycle. Which is without doubt an attribute that is very important in this market segment." [1]


1. http://www.stromtrooper.com/289621-post1.html