January 15, 2021

Sonic Automotive CEO accused of assault, strangling woman

David Bruton Smith, CEO of Sonic Automotive, was arrested Monday and charged with assault on a female and felony assault by strangulation, according to public records and the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police report says a woman who is not related to Smith told officers she was held against her will and injured during an assault which took place between 10 p.m. Sunday and the early morning hours Monday. The incident report says officers and Medic arrived at a home on Carmel Park Drive in south Charlotte, around 2:30 a.m., Monday, in reference to a domestic violence call. Public records show Smith owns the home at the address listed on the police report.

The woman is not identified in the report and the Charlotte Observer does not name victims of domestic violence.

Smith, 46, was also charged with two misdemeanors: false imprisonment and interfering with emergency communications, arrest warrant information on the sheriff’s office website shows.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers arrested Smith, who did not return a phone call or text message Wednesday afternoon from the Observer. Sonic Automotive bills itself as one of the biggest auto retailers in the United States.

Jail records show Smith was released on bond on Tuesday around 4:43 p.m.

Little detail was available from authorities about the circumstances surrounding Smith’s arrest. The case remains under investigation, according to CMPD records.

CMPD spokesperson Officer Tom Hildebrand said “The victim stated the suspect assaulted and unlawfully restrained her without her consent.” The police report states the woman had bruises and scratches. She was not taken to the hospital, according to the report.

In 2018, David Smith took over as CEO of Sonic after his brother Scott stepped down. The company was founded by their father, Bruton Smith, who also started Speedway Motorsports, LLC, which owns and operates NASCAR racetracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.

Sonic Automotive is a Fortune 500 company, incorporated in 1997. As of Dec. 31, the company had about 9,300 workers, Sonic Automotive said in its annual report. Smith’s company reported an all-time record total revenue last year of over $10.4 billion, and gross profit of $1.5 billion.

The Charlotte-based company recently told the Observer it was expanding a retail hub on Independence Boulevard known as EchoPark. EchoPark focuses on offering used one- to four-year-old cars at a discount, and allows people to buy and sell cars through its website or retail locations.

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Amanda Zhou covers public safety for The Charlotte Observer and writes about crime and police reform. She joined The Observer in 2019 and helped cover the George Floyd protests in Charlotte in June 2020. Previously, she interned at the Indianapolis Star and Tampa Bay Times. She grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College in 2019.

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