Same Bike, Different Name: Suzi Boulevard Vs. Kawi Vulcan
Can You Tell These Cruisers Apart Without A Microscope?
When this cooperative arrangement was first announced, it was believed that Suzuki and Kawasaki's entire model lines would soon be clones of each other, much in the way that no one without a scorecard could tell the difference between a late 1980's Chevrolet and Oldsmobile. At least both of the car lines belonged to the same corporation, while Suzuki, the long time car, motorcycle and power products manufacturer couldn't possibly have been more different than Kawasaki which is primarily a heavy industries company that makes motorcycles because... well... who knows why they make motorcycles? But they do make good ones!
As it turned out, Kawazukis were few and far between. A handful of kiddy off road and MX bikes, and a 400 commuter were all that ever hit the dealerships. With the exception of their big sport cruisers.
To bring up the General Motors metaphor again, think back to the very first Cadillac Escalade. It was as if someone had handed the styling department a Chevy Suburban, a box full of Cadillac emblems and instructed them not to spend more than twenty bucks on changing anything. Later Escalades evolved away from their Fred & Mike's Drywall & Painting Co. Suburban roots but the first few were just ridiculous carbon copies. Earlier in its history, Cadillac division quickly required a baby model to cope with the early Eighties petroleum shocks, so it just borrowed a base travelling salesman's special Chevy Cavalier and with the requisite gluing on of Cadillac emblems marketed it as a Caddy at more than twice the price of the "budget" Cavalier. Thus the Cimarron was born. And fortunately soon died.
Exactly the same thing occurred with the Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600 which was modified into a Suzuki Boulevard M95 by swapping out the headlight and sticking a Suzuki emblem onto the sidecovers. Oh yeah, and changing the rear fender into a design quite reminiscent of the famous classic Z1 900s... which were Kawasakis!
Look at the photos. Can you really tell them apart? Out of the thousands of parts that make up a modern motorcycle, there are maybe three or four different ones. Everything on the bike is made by Kawasaki. Believe it or not, even the Suzuki emblems for the sidecovers were made by Kawasaki!
It didn't take too long for Kawasaki and Suzuki to conclude that no one was being fooled by this sham and that all they were doing were cannibalizing each other's market share. The "alliance" mercifully came to an end in late 2006, and the Suzuki Boulevard M95 disappeared into the sunset, leaving behind the Kawasaki Mean Streak 1600, which was all it ever was anyway.
Kawasaki seems to be in a hiatus in the cruiser end of the market, either to recover from the breakup of the collaboration, or because they have something totally amazing up their sleeves that will shock everyone in the motorcycling universe the way that the first H1s and Z1s did. The past few years since the introduction of the mighty and awesome Vulcan 2000 have only seen minor cosmetic changes to their lineup. Suzuki has taken a very different tack. The company is partnering up with any college kid with a new technology and promises some amazing paradigm-setting motorcycles in the near future. If they can get any of that fancy wizardry to the production line, that is.