Suzuki ceasing sales in the U.S. almost put the dealership out of business, Huffman said.
The former Charleston Suzuki lost about 85 percent of its employees after the bankruptcy announcement, he said. Some left because of uncertainty while others had to be laid off.
"We couldn't sustain the same amount of people because our business was affected by a 70 percent loss of sales by not selling new cars anymore," he said.
Slumping sales wasn't something the dealership was used to: Charleston Suzuki was ranked as a top 15 Suzuki dealer in the nation, he said.
The dealership began by selling two Suzukis a month, but was selling more than 30 cars a month when the company declared bankruptcy.
"The franchise was very robust. It was growing," Huffman said. "We were making progress, and by the end of the year we may have got to the top 10."
Huffman said the dealership did sell all 78 Suzuki models left on its lot by offering thousands of dollars off the price tags.
Customers were concerned, mad and some even cussed out the salespeople.
"Some of our customers just bought cars the week of the announcement and they thought that we knew and had done something unethical to them," Huffman said. "We had no idea. If they only knew the major effect it had on us."
Huffman said Charleston Mitsubishi did sign a contract with Suzuki to remain a parts and service provider for seven more years so that Suzuki owners still have a nearby repair option.
Mechanics at the dealership were the first employees to go through training and certifications to learn the necessary skills to work on Mitsubishi cars, he said.
The dealership's now 15 employees are going through training, too, as more workers are hired.
Raines gave Charleston Mitsubishi his old signs, but Huffman said the car company expects the dealership to use its newly designed signs. Those should be going up soon, he said.
"We don't have our signs up on the buildings yet, but walking into our store today has so much excitement because of Mitsubishi right now," Huffman said. "If the month ends today, we would be the No. 1 Mitsubishi dealer in the state. We're excited about the future."
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.