<!--:es-->Nissan redesign shifts into gear<!--:-->

Nissan redesign shifts into gear

In Dallas-Fort Worth, five of Nissan's 14 area dealerships have completed the program.

Newly redesigned Nissan dealerships springing up around the Metroplex — decked in silver and red — are the result of the Nissan Retail Environmental Design Initiative, a retailing program launched in 2002 aimed at revitalizing the brand and improving dealership operations.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, five of Nissan’s 14 area dealerships have completed the program: Bankston Nissan Dallas, North Texas Nissan in Corinth, Trophy Nissan in Mesquite, Nissan of McKinney and Courtesy Nissan in Richardson. Nissan North America has kicked in more than $2 million to those dealers to help offset the costs of incorporating the new look.

Nationally, the revitalization program represents a $250 million investment by Nissan, while dealers across the nation have ponied up $750 million in renovations and other expenditures in adopting the new look, including layout, facility planning, building architecture, exterior and interior materials and finishes, fixtures, furniture and signage.

Nissan is riding a record sales volume with more than a million cars and trucks sold in the 12 months ending in May. Nationally, according to Nissan sales figures, dealerships that had completed the initiative showed an average sales growth of 57% in 2004, compared with 33% among dealers that had not completed the program.

D-FW top Texas market

Additionally, Texas was key to the successful sales run, experiencing an increase in sales volume of more than 24% in the 12 months that ended in May 2005. The D-FW market increased its sales 10% over last year and remained the No. 1 sales market in Texas. Nationwide, more than 247 Nissan facilities are complete and another 294 are in various stages of design and construction.

Ron Bruce, Nissan’s retail environmental manager for the South Central region, said the design initiative met some early skepticism when it made its Kansas City, Mo., debut in 2003. Jay Wolfe Nissan, he said, incorporated the program’s changes while moving to a new location on Interstate 29 with higher traffic volumes.

«That dealer went from selling 25 units per month to over 92 units,» Bruce said. «Part of that is the facility and location, but a big part is the attitude of the work force — you go from working in a dump to working in a palace and the mindset is totally different.»

Jim Whitesel, general manager at the 63,000-square-foot Trophy Nissan in Mesquite, said the dealership completed its renovations in June 2004 at a cost of $1.5 million. Since the renovations, Trophy’s sales volume, which averages about 800 units annually, has tracked upward by 20% in both new and used car categories, he said.

«The biggest change is the openness, and the clean and well-lit look,» Whitesel said. «The unknown factor we hadn’t counted on was our employees. We don’t advertise for salespeople, and instead do a lot of recruiting. We had two (recruits) that specifically said they didn’t come here because of the facility, and now they are working here. So it’s not just about sales volume.»

Bankston Nissan Dallas spent $13 million in its move from Preston Road to LBJ Freeway at Welch Road last year, which also incorporated the new standards into the new 53,000-square-foot dealership.

General Manager Merle Zmak said the dealership’s sales volume represents 28.6% of the local market share, with 169 new units sold per month, along with about 100 used vehicles. He said the reaction by employees, those on-board as well as applicants, is identical to Trophy’s experience.

«We actually have to turn down more than we can employ,» Zmak said. «Our retention is incredible, and we have one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry.»