Originally created 09/22/99

Third Nissan dealership coming soon



Janelle Watson, president of Sunbelt Nissan, ceremoniously broke ground Tuesday at 3300 Washington Road with a shovel.

The company plans to open a third dealership in the Augusta area in January at the Washington Road location.

Sunbelt opened its first dealership more than 35 years ago. It is one of the oldest Nissan dealerships in the United States.

Sunbelt's multiple location dealership is rare, Sunbelt NissanVice President Mike Watson said.

"This is very different," Mr. Watson said.

Sunbelt also has dealerships off Peach Orchard Road and on the Aiken-Augusta Highway in North Augusta. The third location will allow the company to offer customers more convenience, with greater efficiency, Mr. Watson said.

Instead of three separate competing dealerships with three general managers and three computer systems and three inventories, Sunbelt can offer customers the conveniences of three locations with one general manager, one computer system and one inventory.

"Sunbelt Nissan benefits from economies of scale," Mr. Watson said.

The new location will be on four acres near Taylor Infiniti.

Mr. Watson declined to disclose how much the dealership will cost to build. However, he did say that the average cost to build a new dealership is about $3 million and that he expected it to be about half the cost because of the efficiency created by owning other area locations.

Market forces and technology are changing the way companies sell cars. Other manufacturers are branding their dealerships and designing them to look alike.

Honda, for example, which plans to open a new dealership off the Aiken-Augusta Highway at the end of the month, is encouraging its dealers to use similar-looking building facades.

The Internet also is creating change. A joint venture between Ford and Microsoft will help car buyers purchase autos through the Internet.

The agreement announced Monday upgrades Microsoft's CarPoint Web site so that users can choose the paint color, upholstery, stereo system and other details and have their orders matched with cars in dealer lots, in distribution centers or even on the factory floor.

Price negotiation and delivery, however, are still done through the dealer.

Reach Frank Witsil at (706) 823-3352.