Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

NEW ORLEANS – American Suzuki Motors Corp. soon could help take some of the floorplan financing onus away from its retailers, say dealers following the auto maker’s franchise meeting here at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention.

Suzuki volume dipped below the 100,000-unit mark last year, with total sales down 16.3% from like-2007 to 85,286. The Japanese auto maker secured a mere 0.6% share of the U.S. market.

“I think the main theme that came out of the meeting is that (new Suzuki President) Kevin Saito has a new vision of how dealers will stock and sell new cars,” say Roy Greenblatt, owner of three Matt Blatt Suzuki dealerships in southern New Jersey.

“We are going to wait and see when (Saito) introduces (a new plan) and what it looks like, but he thinks he can take some of the floorplan (financing) onus off of the dealer and put it back on the manufacturer,” Greenblatt says. “We think it’s a great thing.”

Sales at his trio of Suzuki franchises were down about 30% last year, Greenblatt says, noting his business “is focusing more on used cars in 2009, since last year was such a tough year.”

Prior to 2008, Suzuki had a solid 5-year stretch of sales growth in the U.S., with deliveries totaling 100,000 annually in both 2006 and 2007.

Saito tells Ward’s Suzuki’s future is “positive, because we have good products; some small-size exciting products.

“We confirmed our confidence (at NADA),” he says. “Our dealers have some issues and problems, and I said we are with them. We’ll find some way to (overcome obstacles).”

dstark@wardsauto.com