NASHVILLE -- Nissan Motor Corp.’s North American chairman Jose Munoz says he doesn’t care whether his future dealers are large chains, small family owners or non-U.S. corporations -- so long as they perform.
“I don’t care about the nationality,” Munoz tells Automotive News, referring to a group of Mexico-based retail groups that he brought to U.S. dealer points last year. “Is there any opportunity? Sure. The market is open. If they want to establish a business here, sure.”
Munoz says his main criterion for retailers who want new Nissan points is whether they can deliver results. The brand is working toward capturing a 10 percent U.S. market share by April 2017 -- up from 8 percent for the first four months of this year. That share was down from 8.2 percent for the first four months of 2014.
Munoz eagerly welcomed billionaire Warren Buffett into the Nissan and Infiniti dealer families this year when Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway investment company acquired the large, privately held Van Tuyl Group of dealerships. But Munoz says small dealers are just as critical to Nissan’s growth.
“I’ve met dealers who are small and independent but well-known in their local community,” he says. “Consumers go to them. They do a good job. They have good profitability and high loyalty. Those are the kind of dealers you need as a manufacturer.
“The family business is always going to be successful. And maybe they want to invest more with us and grow.”
Munoz, a native of Spain who ran Nissan’s Mexico subsidiary before taking over North American operations in 2013, acknowledges that he sparked some gossip last year when he helped pave the way for three Mexican retail groups to invest in 10 Nissan dealerships in California and Texas.
“They were saying that because I spent three years in Mexico, ‘You’re bringing your friends,’” Munoz says.
“I said, ‘My only friends are the good performers. If your performance is good, you’re my friend. If your performance is no good, you are not my friend.’
“Now they’re saying, ‘Hey, don’t you have some more of those friends?’”
Mexico a model
Mexico has become a model market among Nissan’s global operations. Last year, Nissan’s already huge 25 percent market there rose further to 26.2 percent. Many dealers there were galvanized by Munoz’s tenure, during which he helped dealers consolidate local markets and boost sales efficiency.
According to Munoz, some of the largest Mexican groups asked whether they would be allowed to operate U.S. stores, and he said yes.
“Some of these guys have reached a natural ceiling in that market, and they are grateful to Nissan and want to continue to grow,” Munoz says. “We said, ‘Get in touch with people, and maybe they are willing to sell and you can buy.’”
But Munoz emphasizes that he has no specific agenda to expand any group’s holding of Nissan stores in the United States -- large or small.
He says that many of the investors expressing interest in acquiring Nissan stores are existing Nissan dealers.