Origins of Famous Motorcycle Brands Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati and Aprilia

Motorcycle riding days don’t you wonder where your motorcycle brand came from?

Industrial development in Japan and Italy around the time after the second world war put both countries as the world’s motorcycle giants. The stories of the founding of these brands are a lot of fun to read.

Here is a brief story of the origins of the five most famous motorcycle brands in the world.

1. Kawasaki

The name ‘Kawasaki’, which is responsible for revitalizing the motoring industry in Malaysia after a long period of darkness, is taken from the name of its founder Shozo Kawasaki.

Shozo Kawasaki

Shozo has been in the business since he was 17 helping his parents sell kimonos, before venturing into transportation. However, after his cargo ship sank he joined a sugar selling company, responsible for managing the route and supply of sugar under the direction of the Japanese government.

Good performance allowed him to be helped by the government at that time to open a new business. Once faced with a cargo ship accident, Shozo decided to open a shipbuilding business by using western designed ships as inspiration. With the help of a factory site from the government, the Kawasaki shipping company was established – building ships and making history by building Japan’s first submarine.

After its business expanded, the Kawasaki company began to build various other types of vehicles such as trains, airplanes, helicopters, cars and mechanical robots for industrial use. Only in 1969, Kawasaki launched their first motorcycle Kawasaki H1 which managed to break the dominance of European motorcycle manufacturers at the time.

2. Suzuki

The Suzuki brand may have slowed its development in Malaysia, but there are still many motorcycle enthusiasts who are looking forward to the latest design of Suzuki motorcycles that are quite different from the others.

Michio Suzuki

The founder of this brand is a poor young man named Michio Suzuki, the son of a cotton farmer who spends most of his time playing around the cotton plants. He then worked in a weaving factory, allowing him to research the design of weaving machines and how woven fabrics were produced.

At the age of 22, Michio used all the knowledge he had to produce a special weaving machine for his mother. The machine, which was found to be much more efficient than the existing machine, started to become popular, causing Michio to get an order to build it. Hence Michio established the Suzuki weaving machine company in 1909. For 3 decades, the company focused their business on the production of weaving machines that were ahead of their time.

Only in 1937 when it was 50 years old, the Suzuki company began to take steps to produce their first car. After the second world war which caused its business to cease, Suzuki returned to building motorized bicycles starting in 1952, before introducing their first Suzuki Colleda COX 125cc motorcycle two years later.

3. Yamaha

Until now, Yamaha is not only famous as a motorcycle manufacturer, but also as the world’s leading musical instrument manufacturer. It all started after a school principal asked Torakusu Yamaha, a skilled clockmaker to try to repair an organ at the school.

Torakusu Yamaha

The organ, built in Europe, gave Torakusu the idea to try to build similar equipment. However, his first organ was criticized for being somewhat discordant – so Torakusu spent time afterward to learn the basics of music so that he understood what the instrument needed. Armed with musical knowledge, the Yamaha company began producing several other types of instruments such as pianos and gramophones before producing the first guitars in 1963.

Before that, in 1955 the parent company Yamaha Corporation decided to establish their own motor industry business company and Yamaha Motor Company was established.

Their first motorcycle, the Yamaha YA-1 was released in 1955 with a production rate of 200 units per month. The YA-1 became a legend after winning a national-level race in the 125cc category before being replaced with the YB-1 and YC-1 models which improved on their first base model.

4. Ducati

Adriano Cavalieri Ducati

The famous Ducati company is able to offer motorcycles that have a design that is very hard to match and also has a very long history.
Adriano Cavalieri Ducati was a 19 -year -old boy in 1922 who loved to experiment with radio systems. His experiments managed to connect waves from his home in Bologna, Italy with a location in the United States – a huge success in that era.

As a result of this success, Adriano along with his brothers Bruno and Marcello founded the Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati or SSR, to build a condenser radio system.

Their business sold well because Bologna at that time was considered to be the center of radio technology development. They were also supported by the Italian government at the time under the rule of Benito Mussolini, who wanted to aggressively modernize Italy. As a result of hard work, they managed to open a factory in Borgo Panigale, a rural area in Bologna.

Ducati began producing various products such as cameras and lenses, before their factory was taken over by the German military on an agreement between the German and Italian governments. In 1947, the SSRs were declared bankrupt but continued to have government support that saw their potential.

To help Ducati’s business, the company was asked to help develop engine machinery with other companies and their first engine, the Cucciolo T1, was built to be the starting point for Ducati’s rise as a giant in the motoring world.

5. Aprilia

Another well-known Italian brand besides Ducati, the Aprilia name is very popular among fans of two-wheeled machinery.

However, the story of how this name was chosen is markedly different from the other brands on our list. A businessman named Cavaliere Alberto Beggio set up a bicycle manufacturing factory in Venice in 1962. Six years later, Cavaliere’s son Ivano Beggio took over his father’s duties.

Under Ivano’s management, their company started producing motorcycles because Ivano felt bicycles were not something that could continue to drive his interest. Their first motorcycle to use the Aprilia brand was a 50cc motorcycle before two mopeds named Colibri and Daniela were launched.

But where does the name ‘Aprilia’ come from?

The story goes like this – Cavaliere is a car lover and one of his favorite car models is a Lancia company car named Lancia Aprilia. So from the beginning, Cavaliere named their factory as Aprilia due to his interest in the car model which is said to be unique and different compared to other cars.

The ethos is held by Aprilia and becomes the identity of every one of their motorcycle designs.

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