How do you get a car into the front of your shop? That was the thought that went through my mind as I stood outside the window of Kotobuki Jidosha’s (Kotobuki Motors) showroom. Before me was a Suzuki Hustler. Admittedly, it was not a large car, but nevertheless, I wondered how it got in there.
I had come along to Kotobuki Jidosha’s premises in Higashi Suna to meet Mr. Hisahito Nagano, the 3rd generation member of this family-run enterprise, now in its 65th year of operation. Mr. Nagano joined the firm in March 2018 after a 5-year stint with the Suzuki Motor Corporation, first at its headquarters in Hamamatsu and then in Fukuoka. Whilst his father, Mr. Yutaka Nagano, runs the business, Hisato has spent the past year learning the ropes, and getting to grips with all aspects of the firm’s sales, repairs, accounting, and administrative operations.
Although Kotobuki Jidosha is a franchisee for the Suzuki Arena dealer network, it also handles sales of automobiles other than Suzuki; not only brand-new, but second-hand as well.
As Mr. Nagano explained, the company has been in Higashi Suna for a long time and benefits from repeat customers, be it in ordering new cars for a customer, providing after-service with repairs and servicing, conducting the periodic “shaken” (compulsory vehicle roadworthiness inspection) and, on-selling the car when the customer decides he or she wants a change of model.
As well as father and son, the younger Mr. Nagano’s wife, when she is not looking after their young child, helps out in the business, handling the company’s PR activities. The family is supported by two maintenance staff and one person in accounting. The image Kotobuki Jidosha projects is “At Home”. This is a small firm, which wants its customers to feel they are a part of the family, that they can rely on the staff, and can feel comfortable to drop in to the showroom any time they like.
To make up for the limited showroom space, there are a couple of revolving stands displaying scale models of Suzuki cars. These really neat models are there to give customers an idea of the range of cars and colours available on order.
Turning my attention from these fascinating models, I noticed two large cuddly toys perched on the showroom car’s bonnet. These mascots are “shisa”, not-so-fierce Okinawan guardian lions, there to protect the Nagano’s business.
Stepping outside the showroom, Mr. Nagano led me down the side of the building, indicating that the premises stretch back a way. It is here that the fitting and repair shops are located,
In clean and orderly bays, Mr. Nagano’s colleagues were busy at work; one working on an engine and the other installing a sat-nav system in a newly-purchased car.
At the rear of the premises Mr. Nagano pointed out a large car park where inventory and cars awaiting attention sit. On the day I visited Mr. Nagano estimated that there were some 30 vehicles on what, from the road, looks a small site.
After showing me around the workshops and explaining the difference between Suzuki’s hybrid cars and other makes, we wandered back into the showroom where Mr. Nagano invited me to help myself to a free hot drink from the drinks machine. All part of Kotobuki Jidosha’s “At Home” service.
And finally, the answer to how they got the Suzuki Hustler into the front of the showroom? Once every two months they move the desk and cabinets and open the sliding doors at the rear of the showroom to wheel the old model out and a new model in. So why not come along and see what is on offer in the showroom? The Naganos may have just the right car for you.
Story and photographs by Jeremy Hutchinson