Since opening in 2013, Charleston Mitsubishi has been setting sales records.

As evidence, the walls of the dealership at 7010 MacCorkle Ave., near St. Albans, are covered in congratulatory banners from Mitsubishi.

“There’s so many of them, we can’t put them all up. We’ve been the number one dealer in the state since we opened, and we’ve been the number one dealer in the district since we opened,” said General Manager Steve Huffman. “And we were number three in the nation last month. We’re one of the top dealers in the nation.”

Huffman attributes Charleston Mitsubishi’s success — it’s “market penetration” was the highest in the nation this year — to the quality of Mitsubishi’s products and to the dealership’s straightforward way of selling cars that eschews commissioned sales representatives.

The dealership’s product specialists help guide customers to the Mitsubishi vehicles that best fit their needs and desires.

Charleston Mitsubishi is also a “one price store,” Huffman said.

Whether it’s advertised online or in the newspaper, the price is same.

“Everything matches,” he said.

The non-commissioned product specialists at Charleston Mitsubishi greet each customer so that they can establish the kind of relationship that will help the customer find the best vehicle for him or her.

This involves a short, informal interview and filling out a questionnaire to help guide the product specialists in their quest to help customers find the best vehicle for them.

Huffman said car shoppers not accustomed to this sales approach might at first be wary.

“We’re not pulling your credit, because we’re not asking for your Social (Security number) and we’re not asking for your date of birth. All we’re doing is finding out what your wants and needs are and get to know you a little bit. Your name is important to us, so we write it down. Every customer that comes through that door is important to us,” he said.

This approach to sales helps avoid long, meandering trips around the car lot. It helps to focus the process.

“We can help eliminate some of the time that should – if everybody does what their supposed to – cut down on the amount of time that you’re here, eliminate a lot of wasted time, and plus, it helps build that relationship between the product specialist and the customer.”

Charleston Mitsubishi sells a strong line of sport utility vehicles and sedans. Huffman said Mitsubishi SUVs are the most popular sellers at the dealership.

“The shift in the market now has gone to SUVs,” he said.

In the SUV category, Mitsubishi has several to choose from, including the Outlander, the Outlander Sport, the Eclipse Cross and the Outlander PHEV, a hybrid vehicle that runs on gasoline and electricity.

The Eclipse Cross is a five-passenger vehicle, while the Outlander is a seven-passenger SUV.

At Charleston Mitsubishi, the Outlander Sport is the most popular seller.

“Not even close — it’s the number one seller,” he said.

Charleston Mitsubishi actually started in 2009 as a Suzuki dealership. When Suzuki filed for bankruptcy and left the United States, that left the dealership scrambling to find a new franchise.

“We were 90 days away from going out of business, because we didn’t have any other franchise,” Huffman said.

But then, unexpectedly, the phone rang. The call was from a neighboring dealership just up the highway.

It was Lester Raines, owner of Lester Raines Honda and Lester Raines Mazda, who, at the time, also had the local Mitsubishi franchise.

“Out of the blue, Lester Raines called and said, ‘Hey, I heard you guys need a franchise. I’m interested in possibly selling Mitsubishi to help you out.’”

Thus, with that phone call, the dealership was able to stay in business as Charleston Mitsubishi.

“It was wasn’t for Lester Raines, we wouldn’t be here,” Huffman said.

Huffman added that Charleston Mitsubishi’s service department continues to work on Suzuki vehicles.

For more information about Charleston Mitsubishi, call 304-451-9226 or 304-721-8316 or visit www.charlestonmitsubishispecials.com