BREA, Calif. -- American Suzuki Motor Corp. on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and said it will cease selling automobiles in the U.S. as part of a plan to restructure its business.

The company, based in Brea, Calif., is the sole distributor of Suzuki Motor Co. vehicles in the continental U.S.

In documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California, the company estimated that its debts and liabilities range from at least $100 million to as much as $500 million.

It also said it has between 1,000 and 5,000 creditors.

American Suzuki Motor said it has enough cash to operate during the restructuring and intends to honour all car warranties and buyback agreements. It will work with its car dealerships to help them transition into parts-and-service operations. In some cases, the dealerships will be shuttered, it said.

Once it exits bankruptcy protection, American Suzuki Motor said it will focus on selling Suzuki motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and marine outboard engines.

It said that it is exiting the car business because of slow sales, unfavourable foreign exchange rates and high costs due to U.S. regulatory requirements.

It sold 2,023 vehicles in October, which was up 5 per cent from the same month last year. Its Grand Vitara sport utility vehicle posted a 64 per cent jump in sales last month, although American Suzuki did not say how many of them were sold. In May, the last month it provided a breakdown of its sales, it moved 474 Grand Vitaras, while its biggest seller was its SX4 small crossover, of which 1,101 were sold.

The bankruptcy and reorganization are unrelated to its parent Japan-based Suzuki Motor Corp., which intends to buy the American subsidiary's remaining businesses and automotive service operation.

The reorganized company will retain the American Suzuki Motor name, the company said.

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    The first Green Car of the Year wasn't even a car; instead a midsized hybrid SUV earned the top honor. A judging panel that included automotive legend Carroll Shelby and eco-advocate Jean-Michel Cousteau chose the Mercury Mariner Hybrid as the 2006 Green Car of the Year. Other finalists included the Honda Accord Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The 2006 Mercury Mariner Hybrid came equipped with a 133 horsepower, 2-3 liter, four-cylinder engine. The integrated 94 horsepower electric motor delivered V-6-like performance to the sporty four-wheel drive SUV. With a combined fuel efficiency rating of 27 mpg, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid's fuel efficiency was nearly 40 percent better than the non-hybrid four-cylinder Mariner. <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/greggjerdingen/6251907605/" target="_hplink">Flickr image courtesy of DVS1mn</a></em>

  • 2007: Toyota Camry Hybrid

    Toyota's third hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, was named the 2007 Green Car Journal Green Car of the Year. In 2007, the Toyota Camry had been the best-selling car in the nation for eight of the previous nine years. The fact that Toyota chose to produce a hybrid version of the popular vehicle was a milestone in the eco-motoring market. The new Toyota Camry Hybrid was the first hybrid vehicle produced with the mass market in mind. Until that point, most hybrids were geared toward a niche market, but Toyota was going after a wide range of consumers with the Camry Hybrid. The 192 horsepower 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid received a 40 mpg city fuel efficiency rating from the <a href="http://www.mnn.com/eco-glossary/epa" target="_hplink">EPA</a>. This was significantly higher than the non-hybrid rating of 24 mpg in the city. While the superior fuel efficiency of the Camry hybrid was attractive to consumers, the competitive pricing was also cited as a reason that the vehicle was named the winner. Jason Mark, vehicles director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, commented on the sedan's value, "The Camry not only protects the planet, <a href="http://www.greencar.com/articles/toyota-camry-hybrid-named-2007-green-car-year.php" target="_hplink">it protects consumers' pocketbooks</a>. It's one of the most cost-effective hybrids on the market." <em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrmadriversseat/5959260353/" target="_hplink">Flickr image courtesy of NRMA New Cars</a></em>

  • 2008: Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

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  • 2009: Volkswagen Jetta TDI

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  • 2010: Audi A3 TDI

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  • 2011: Chevrolet Volt

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