By on April 23, 2018

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a typical Nissan dealership, no one’s going to mistake one for the Taj Mahal. They’re functional structures, designed to hold salespeople that can walk you through the terms of a loan. Do they really need to be anything more?

Nissan says no, but it would still like its stores to undergo an ambitious renovation program that would alter the majority for the better. Executives in Japan said the brand intends to update 9,000 of its dealerships around the globe over the next five years. Changes include more prominent signage, updated customer-handling procedures, and more open concept showrooms and service departments.

However, just how much pressure HQ is exerting on North American shops to adhere to the changes is unclear. In the United States, dealerships are already subject to the Nissan Retail Environment Design Initiative (NREDI 2.0), which encourages tons of daylight via glass-fronted showrooms and wide open spaces. The overall look is extremely modern and inviting without feeling showy. Think really nice community college, rather than the hotel lounge experience some premium auto brands attempt to provide.

According to Automotive News, the updated Nissan retailers have reported increases in both sales and servicing. But the company isn’t mandating the changes on existing dealerships. The new design is only required on new showrooms or on those already planning renovations — and even then, Nissan allows for considerable flexibility in terms of how individual dealers implement NREDI 2.0.

The automaker will grow a little more insistent over the next five years, though. Globally, Nissan has around 10,000 stores in 160 countries, and its renovation plan would affect nearly 90 percent of the whole. Meanwhile, the company’s North American arm said it wants to work with dealerships interested in the new standard, noting that the decision for changes is ultimately up to them. While that’s no way to ensure 9,000 dealers become glass fronted, it shows a level of restraint that could help the brand avoid a Project Pinnacle-style situation.

Cadillac’s dealership renovation program was an utter mess from go, earning tons of backlash from store owners. The brand repeatedly softened the plan to keep it viable. But the brand’s former president, Johan de Nysschen, said Pinnacle was working as intended a couple of months before he was fired. While it’s not fair to attribute all of Cadillac’s shortfalls to de Nysschen or Project Pinnacle, both failed to turn the brand around at a rate the corporate machine was willing to tolerate.

Nissan isn’t in the same kind of trouble as Cadillac, nor is it fielding the same kind of experience to a shared demographic. It has a completely different client base and domestic sales for the brand were at an all-time high in 2017. This year looks like it might be even stronger. But it acknowledges it needs to change with the times and, with so many dealer networks updating their stores, Nissan doesn’t want to be left in the dust.

“The relationship between dealers and customers is changing, with customers expecting a more digital and customized experience,” explained Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci during an announcement the brand will bring eight electrified vehicles to market in Japan over the next five years.

We don’t know which of those models will come to North America, but the company is pushing the implementation of its e-Power drivetrains across the board. There will also be pure electrics to complement the unique hybrids starting in 2020 — one of which will be based upon the IMx concept SUV. Schillaci also said Infiniti should receive a fully electric vehicle nameplate in 2021.

nissan imx concept

[Images: Nissan]

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26 Comments on “Binning the Bland: Nissan Planning a Great Dealership Makeover...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    When it comes to their electrification plans, Nissan could start by taking its own vehicles more seriously:

    Note to Nissan: Repeatedly offering free oil changes to EV drivers is an insult to them, and you.

    • 0 avatar

      Add to that the fact that Nissan doesn’t crack down on dealers that make accessibility to chargers difficult and fail to maintain them. I’m hoping I don’t have these issues with Porsche and/or Mercedes dealers when I get the next car.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Here’s a question for the B&B. How much influence does the physical ambience of the dealership have on your purchasing decision?

    I know some dealers. One installed a gym in one of his dealerships hoping that people waiting for their vehicle to be serviced would use it.

    Another had a respected 3rd party open a ‘cafe’ for high quality, fairly low cost meals and snacks.

    Neither seemed to add any more profit/business.

    So what do you look for in a dealership?

    Maybe Bark could post a column on this?

    And it is very disappointing that TTAC did not post any articles on the Humboldt disaster, and the possibility that traffic circles/roundabouts could greatly enhance road safety.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it depends on what kind of buyer you’re going after. If you’re after the blue light shoppers, credit criminals, or the folks who look at the whole negotiation process as their chance to restage their favorite fight scenes from the “Rocky” series, ambience won’t matter.

      But it does matter to folks like me. I’ll pay a a couple of extra bucks to be treated like I’m valued. And ambience is definitely part of that. To each his own.

    • 0 avatar

      So what do you look for in a dealership?

      Facilities beyond those necessary for an effective sales environment are absurd. Why would anyone want to linger at a dealership during service? Efforts should be focused on enabling customers to avoid waiting for service, i.e. loaner vehicles or shuttles to and from the dealership.

      The sales environment should be clean and comfortable, matching the level of comfort/luxury of the vehicles being sold. Any audio should be background level and should not have ads. A play space for kids would be fine as long as it’s separated from the active sales space. There should be a separate entrance for service/parts. That’s about all that is necessary.

      • 0 avatar

        That pretty much nails it. I’m not expecting to be “wowed” but the competent facilities listed above should be standard. Less would be a noticeable deficiency.

    • 0 avatar

      Not a lot really as far as the physical building goes. Buying my first BMW at the local dealers old, and I mean OLD, dump of a shared with Infiniti showroom was no different than buying the second one at their newly built BMW-spec glass palace. Same fantastic people in each building, same good pricing, same excellent warranty service and “I’m not paying that” out of warranty service.

      I have no doubt that buying a Nissan in a shiny new building will be no different than buying one in an old warehouse.

    • 0 avatar

      Very little. For me, it is all about the product, price and being treated in a professional manner. One of my better buying experience was in 1998, buying a Maxima, at ABC Nissan here in Phoenix. It was a volume dealer, and at that time, the sales offices were little more than a bunch of prefabricated trailers. I couldn’t have cared less.

  • avatar

    You put one of those fancy modern structures in a rural area, well it just doesn’t look right. They need to be more sympathetic to the area they are in.

  • avatar

    As long as their product lineup is garbage, it doesn’t matter what the dealerships have. The ratio of time spent in the car vs at the dealership should be minimal

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. They’re selling most of their lineup on price and sub-prime financing. But don’t economically marginalized people also deserve comfy chairs, soft lighting, gourmet coffee, and blueberry muffins while waiting for their loans to be approved?

  • avatar

    Last time I visited a Nissan dealership, the atmosphere was barely a half a step above a KIA or Mitsubishi dealership. Perhaps a full step above your typical BHPH lot.

    Also, I’m fairly certain I was the only person in the place, staff or customers, whose native language was English. Nissan is highly regarded in Mexico, and apparently it carries over to Mexican-Americans as well, at least in the Southwest.

  • avatar

    The makeover I’d like my local Nissan dealer to undergo is to stop lying like an emeffer about pricing.

    They publish the MSRP of new Nissan vehicles in the local newspaper and on their website, and their *discount* price as well. The discount price always looks like a decent deal.

    I’ve fallen for this, twice. Each time the salesperson says (during a test drive) something like “You might not qualify for the advertised price. It’s special pricing for recent college grads who also fought in the Korean War and are new parents.”

    Total BS. Thats one reason why I’ve never bouight a Nissan.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      ” It’s special pricing for recent college grads who also fought in the Korean War and are new parents.”

      Ha! Yeah, that old trick is disgusting. At (at least), they do a pretty good job of indicating the too-good-to-be-true price constraints in the fine print.

      But it’s not just Nissan (or Nissan dealers, to be precise). Some Chevy dealers do this, too.

  • avatar

    >They publish the MSRP of new Nissan vehicles in the local newspaper and on their website, and their *discount* price as well. The discount price always looks like a decent deal.

    The classic bait-and-switch as perfected by Nissan.

    Nissan Motors should change their name to something more accurate: Assan Motors.

  • avatar

    It is pretty ironic… touting customers’ expectations about “a more digitized and customized experience” and then worrying about changing the retail ambiance. Frankly, it seems that most customers these days may visit a dealer to test drive a car then leave and go online searching for the best price.

    To me, as long as a place is clean, appears well-maintained, and looks like they give a s*** I don’t really care. It comes down to the respect with which the sales staff treats me and getting an idea that they might be able to care for my car if I bring it back for service. Spending millions on new signage and furniture then paying your sales staff peanuts and having huge turnover seems counterproductive, but that’s what most dealers seem to do.

    If their cars all look like current Nissan products, then I could be at a Ritz bathing in Kristal with three naked Russian hookers begging me to buy the car and I still wouldn’t. I’d take the blueberry muffin, though.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “If their cars all look like current Nissan products, then I could be at a Ritz bathing in Kristal with three naked Russian hookers begging me to buy the car and I still wouldn’t.”

      I’d cave with just one… and 0.0% financing.

  • avatar

    It’s all about the coffee.
    The Honda shop has coffee with creamer and no pastry.
    The local Acura shop has coffee with creamer (yuk) and tiny pastry
    The BMW shop has K cups, Real Milk/cream, and you get a full danish.
    Another BMW shop even has small cold cut sandwiches and a nice lady minding them.

    I knew the local Caddy shop had moved up when they did the K cups and half bagels, with real milk.

    My personal dividing line is real milk.

    Notably, everyone now has wifi. I’m pretty much a road warrior for work, so when I’m getting a service, I will always wait, and I usually move to the back seat of a nice car, open the laptop, and work in luxury. No one has ever told me to not get comfy in the new car, although I don’t eat in them. Best of all is that the cars are soundproof, so I can have client phone calls I’d not feel OK with in public….you never know who is listening in the waiting room, also, some waiting rooms put on some annoying cable news channel and the babel in the background is unprofessional and distracting.

  • avatar

    “updated customer-handling procedures”

    Ones that hopefully exclude trying to hold the keys on my trade in assessment when I’m ready to leave lol. I think they quickly realized to not go down that path with me and I was on my way, but I can imagine what a meeker customer may have been subjected to.

  • avatar

    Though I think Nissan’s most important showroom is the lot at Enterprise, improving their dealers to a set standard (more enforced) couldn’t hurt.

    The Infiniti dealers are glass and modern. And though the sales staff were dressed nicely and pretending to work in their offices, the woman they’d hired to man the desk/phone wasn’t professional.

    In between calls she was shouting to another employee (in view of customers) about her baby drama. And she had visible tattoos via her sleeveless shirt.

    No bueno.

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