Changes Follow American Suzuki After Mel Harris Departure

Suzuki changes 2009 mel harris Rod Lopusnak

Rod Lopusnak has returned and Mel Harris has retired, but that's only part of the picture of American Suzuki's new profile and outlook. The powersports group (motorcycle, ATV and scooter) is now headed by Masashi Tanaka, who replaced Mac Kato, and he's going to be running a vastly different team and organizational structure. Tanaka comes from Suzuki Canada, and Kato has been rotated back to Japan.

The two men have substantially different skill sets and outlooks, we're told. Kato was more of a marketing and promotion guy who liked to move metal and build the top line. Tanaka, who took over last month, is more of a numbers guy, probably more concerned about costs and the bottom line.

The company also worked through an across-the-board staff reduction in April and an influx of new DSMs and RSMs. "It's a brand-new team," says Lopusnak.

Perhaps the biggest change is that Harris' job has been split up among three people: Lopusnak, Dirk Gould and Steve Bortolamedi. "The company has gotten so much bigger and so much more diversified," says Lopusnak, "that Japan learned one guy couldn't do it all. Things were falling through the cracks."

Lopusnak is national sales manager and is responsible for North American sales of motorcycles, ATVs and scooters and anything involving dealers.

Lopusnak returns to Suzuki for the second time in less than three years. Most recently, he spent 14 months as vice president of business development at Tucker Rocky Distributing. Prior to his stint with TR, Lopusnak had been Suzuki's operations manager working out of the company's manufacturing facility in Rome, Ga. He took that post after returning to Suzuki following a brief tour with AMA Pro Racing in 2005.

Dirk Gould is basically the CFO of the motorcycle group. He handles sales support and finance for dealers.

Steve Bortolamedi is advertising manager and has taken over all advertising and public relations work in addition to events such as Daytona, the Cycle World International Motorcycle Shows and Dealer Expo.

"Mel was chief of all that stuff before," says Lopusnak. "Now each one of us is responsible for a specific area."

Dealers soon will start to see changes from Suzuki in the quickness and flexibility of bringing campaigns and programs to market and the quick adaptation of these programs to changing market conditions, says Lopusnak. Look to for a more lengthy report on Lopusnak and the new Suzuki team. — Joe Delmont