Dealer joins Suzuki sales network

Strom Altman, who sold Dodge cars and trucks for many years but lost his franchise agreement with Chrysler, will sell and service Suzukis.

Stranded Suzuki owners who were left without a local dealership because of two car store closings earlier this year got some good news Wednesday.

Local car dealer Strom Altman, who sold Dodge vehicles until his franchise agreement was cut several weeks ago, has agreed with Suzuki officials to sell new models made by the Japanese automaker and to service existing vehicles at his Remount Road location in North Charleston.

The announcement marks Suzuki's return to the Charleston market after a seven-month void.

Car dealer Johnny Dangerfield shuttered his two Suzuki sites in Summerville and Moncks Corner earlier this year.

In a statement, Altman said he's excited to help "the thousands of orphan Suzuki customers" in the local area. He expects the first batch new cars to arrive on his lot in a few days.

Selling Suzukis will be a new experience for Altman, who grew up around the Dodge brand.

As a teenager, he started washing the vehicles for his father, Warren, and finally bought the dealership from him in 1994.

He sold it briefly to a Charlotte group before reacquiring it in 2005.

Altman said last month that he didn't think Chrysler's bankruptcy plan would include severing ties with established dealers. And when that turned out to be the case, he didn't think his longtime dealership would be on the chopping block.

Altman said his vehicle sales, especially for trucks, were up. And he said he put in orders for new vehicles when Chrysler officials told their dealers that they needed to move cars out of the factory and onto the lot.

Altman said he's looking forward to working with Suzuki because it's well-capitalized and operates conservatively.

Suzuki Motor Corp. markets its vehicles in the United States through a network of approximately 400 dealerships.

Its line includes the SX4 Sport, the SX4 Crossover, the XL7 midsize crossover sports utility vehicle, the Grand Vitara compact SUV and the Equator pickup truck.

Like most automakers, Suzuki's U.S. sales are down sharply compared to last year, according to figures released Wednesday by the Brea, Calif.-based Automotive Operations of American Suzuki Motor Corp.

Volume is down 60 percent year-to-date to 22,408 sales through June.