Wichita Subaru dealer embarks on $1.5 million remodel, expansion

Nine months after converting the Suzuki of Wichita dealership to Subaru of Wichita, Brandon Steven and Scott Pitman have begun a $1.5 million remodel and expansion project that will transform the dealership’s look and its 16,000-square-foot building at 11610 E. Kellogg.

Pitman, Subaru of Wichita’s president, said Friday that the project began this week and is expected to be complete by the end of May.

“It’s a pretty extensive remodel,” he said. “It’s not just a facelift, it’s a complete redo.”

Key Construction is the general contractor, and GLMV is the architect.

Pitman said construction will be in two phases. The first phase will include an expansion of its service and parts areas, as well as a new exterior with aluminum and gray slate finishes – and a prominent Subaru badge. The second phase will involve remodeling of the showroom, sales offices and customer waiting areas.

The second phase of the project will be tough, he said, because it will require his sales and other staff to vacate a major part of the dealership building for at least six weeks. The plan is to have them work out of the service and parts areas.

But the work is needed, not only to comply with Subaru standards but also to accommodate a 63 percent increase in employees following the transition from Suzuki to Subaru. Pitman said the dealership employs 130 people, compared with 80 when it was a Suzuki dealer.

In November 2012, American Suzuki Motor Corp., the U.S. arm of Japan-based Suzuki Motor Corp., filed Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy and, as part of its restructuring, ceased sales of its automobiles in the U.S. Several months after that, Pitman and Steven announced they would become partners in Subaru of Wichita and relocate to the Suzuki lot.

Pitman said that since the transition to Subaru, business has grown. That’s partly because the former Suzuki lot is larger than what Subaru had when Steven had it at 1633 N. Rock Road. In the months since the transition, Pitman said he’s had some land that the dealership owned next to his lot rezoned, allowing him to increase the lot size – as well as the dealership’s new and used car inventory.

“We’ve increased our business pretty substantially,” he said.

Pitman said his dealership has benefited from being a Subaru dealer because of the success the Japanese automaker has had in the U.S. Earlier this week, the automaker’s U.S. arm, Subaru of America, said it sold 424,683 cars in the U.S. in 2013, marking its sixth consecutive year of auto sales increases.