Brands come and go, but once a dealer, always a dealer. That’s the lesson from discussions with former Suzuki car dealerships three years after the company closed shop in Canada.
At its peak, Suzuki had 90 points in Canada, of which about a third were paired with Subaru, says Bill Porter, president of Suzuki Canada. Some of those paired stores converted to Subaru even before Suzuki’s March 2013 announcement that it would cease selling cars in Canada by that year’s end.
While about a third of former Suzuki dealers are now single-line Subaru dealers, a similar number took on other franchises — prime among them, Mitsubishi. A few dealers were ready to simply sell their stores and retire. Most of the rest – typically single-store operations – became used-car operations.
Some former Suzuki franchisees have experienced more than their fair share of abandonment. The Kraishnik brothers in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., had Saturn, Saab and Isuzu franchises pulled out from under their feet even before Suzuki. “The letter ‘S’ doesn’t fit well with me,” said Ron Kraishnik.
Still, for the Kraishniks, losing Suzuki wasn’t exactly the end of an era. A long-time used-car operation, they took on Saturn and Saab just in time for GM to pull the plug on those brands in 2009. Then Suzuki approached them to fill the gap, but “it was basically a very small part of our business to begin with. It was for a short couple of years,” said Kraishnik.
Now Saab KW is primarily a used-car op, although like many other former dealers it still does factory-authorized parts and service business for Suzuki.