Suzuki owners left in lurch as dealership closes its doors

TRAVERSE CITY – Bob Rogers likes Suzukis so much that he's bought three of them over the past couple of years at Suzuki of Traverse City. So, he was more than a little shocked to find the dealership closed up when he went in for an oil change.

"I went to take my wife's car in there for routine service and there were no cars in the lot and nobody around," said the retired advertising executive who lives near Lake Ann. "The place was shut down. Finished."

After less than three years in operation, the only Suzuki automobile dealership in the Grand Traverse region has closed its doors.

Suzuki of Traverse City, at 3938 Rennie School Road, near Chum's Corners, shut down its operation at the end of March, according to franchise holder Derek Watson.

Watson declined to give details about why the auto dealership closed, referring all inquiries to Suzuki officials.

"I do know that Suzuki is working daily to locate another franchise in the Traverse City region," he said. "I'm confident they will find one to serve Suzuki owners in this area."

Until that happens, Rogers and other Suzuki owners are now faced with the problem of where to have warranty work done on their vehicles. According to Watson, the closest Suzuki dealership to Traverse City is now McDonald Suzuki located in Freeland, southeast of Midland.

"Suzuki's closure reflects the challenge of building a relatively new automotive brand in today's intensely competitive, crowded U.S. market," said Bill Marsh, Jr., a partner in the Bill Marsh Auto Group. "The other challenge for Suzuki of TC was their location-miles away from the other car dealerships and mainstream retailers. That makes it even tougher to compete. Suzuki found this is a very strong and aggressive automotive market with intense competition."

The dealership opened in 2003 amid much fanfare, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony with representatives from the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.

One chamber official noted that the loss of any area business is difficult.

"It's certainly never a good scene when a company closes," said Tino Breithaupt, new senior vice president of economic development at the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation, an arm of the Chamber. "They were only there three years and apparently didn't feel things were going right. Whether it was the location, the competition, or other business factors, it's never a good thing when this happens. It's a tough pill to swallow, but the Chamber is here to help companies whenever we can." BN