Nissan reveals its new look

Changes
Nissan North America has 2 programs to help its 1,100 U.S. dealerships have a common look.

1. Metallic logo signs for the exterior

2. Interior color schemes that include gray carpet, red trim and gray walls

LAS VEGAS - Nissan North America Inc. is changing its look.

The company wants restyled logos and new fascias on nearly every one of its 1,100 U.S. dealerships, said Bill Kirrane, general manager of the Nissan division.

Kirrane, speaking before a Nissan dealer meeting here Sept. 11, outlined two programs:

1. A plan to replace the red and blue logos in front of Nissan stores with a metallic version with rounded corners.

2. A template for new Nissan dealerships and a retrofit plan to clad current ones with gray metallic walls, red trim and gray carpeting.

The goal is to give Nissan dealerships, which can differ greatly in appearance, a unified look and one suited to display Nissan's new products such as the 2002 Altima and the Z sports car, which arrives next year as a 2003 model.

"We've always been a name that has a good product," Kirrane said. "But we haven't always brought it to market in the best way."

One look fits all

The design can work on existing Nissan dealerships, Kirrane said. "It's a greenhouse, it's a grade up, it's a retrofit and it's a renovation," he said.

The sign change program will take three years to complete, Kirrane said. The facilities program will take as long as 10 years, he said.

Nissan hasn't said what portion of the cost it will assume for dealers who invest in the look. Jed Connelly, Nissan senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the company's aid would be comparable to that given by other manufacturers who have implemented such programs.

"We'll be competitive," Connelly said, "but we really haven't talked about that."

More important, he said, was that Nissan delivered product to dealers. Seven new products slated to arrive in the next four years - four of them into new segments - have shown dealers that Nissan is putting up a heavy investment, Connelly said.

"It was important that we ante up first," Connelly said. "They saw that we had a lot of skin in the game. We're actually leading the way into this new brand identity."

With only about 20 percent of customers coming back to Nissan stores for service, Connelly is dissatisfied. But, he said, the new product dealers will have to sell, along with the new look, should help boost that rate.

Dealers approve

Most dealers at the meeting were optimistic about the look. They walked through a mock dealership set up in a hotel conference room. The design includes a service area near the front lobby, a contemporary showroom, dealer offices upstairs, cafe seating with laptop computer hookups, and a refreshment area with a sink.

"Nissan understands the importance of making a showroom from a sales manager's viewpoint," said Vince Sheehy of Manassas, Va., president of three Nissan dealerships and member of Nissan's dealer advisory board. "Given the way they rolled out the program, I'd do it if I had no (financial) assistance."

Many dealers liked the idea of uniformity among stores.

"It's a good idea to be on the same page," said Dawson Grimsley, dealer principal of Davis-Moore Nissan in Wichita, Kan. "Right now, all the Nissan dealerships across the country look different."

But some dealers have invested in their stores and would be hard pressed to commit to a facelift in the near future. John White, who manages seven franchises in the Pittsburgh area, just invested in a Nissan store two years ago.

"I've got it dualed with a Kia franchise," he said. "Both of them are growing and both of them want me to upgrade."

White said he may not invest even in a new Nissan logo any time soon.

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