Suzuki of Lakeland Is Closing

By Shoshana Walter
THE LEDGER

Published: Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 5:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 7, 2009 at 10:40 p.m.

About two years ago, Suzuki of Lakeland broke company records by making the most monthly sales out of any Suzuki dealership nationwide.

Now the dealership, and its Orlando counterpart on West Colonial Drive, is closing.

One of the Lakeland partners, John Barlas, announced Friday that lack of customers coupled with troubling economic times caused the closure of the two businesses.

It's not just a matter of bad sales, Barlas explained in a news release. Car dealers rely on financing to stock their lots, while customers rely on loans to buy cars. With the financial industry hurting, neither customers nor dealerships are getting enough money to sustain the business.

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The group took over the Lakeland company, Polk County's second Suzuki dealership, in December 2006, nine months after it opened. They quickly increased business from 40 sales per month to record-breaking highs of over 300 per month in the summer of 2007, according to Ledger reports.

To get there, Lee Barlas told The Ledger at the time, they spent more on advertising, such as English and Spanish-language infomercials, direct mailings and print ads. They also set up an in-house call center.

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