ROCK HILL — Rarely does a business owner issue an apology in the hope of gaining more customers.
But thats what the folks at Harrelson Nissan of Rock Hill are doing.
We done a disservice to our customers, said Bobby Harrelson. The dealership long ago outlived its location on Cherry Road where the Harrelsons have been selling cars since 1988.
Small doesnt adequately describe the Cherry Road dealership. There wasnt enough room for cars, customers or convenient service. Just getting new autos off the truck and onto the lot required an intricate ballet as car haulers parked in the middle of Cherry Road and then shuttled cars to the dealership between breaks in traffic.
That will change today as Harrelson Nissan begins operations at its new store on Galleria Boulevard, just down the street from Honda Cars of Rock Hill and Toyota of Rock Hill.
To win back customers, Harrelson is offering free oil changes to those who purchased their cars at Harrelson but went elsewhere for service. Its the first step, says General Manager Tim Ames, in creating a new culture and image at the dealership.
Sometime you have to refocus and bring it back to the basics, Ames said. Its easy to say and harder to deliver.
The Harrelsons spent about $8 million to buy seven acres and build the new dealership, Bobby Harrelson said.
Double is the word most often used to describe the new facility: double the space to store and park cars, a service department thats doubling in size and staff and moving into air-conditioned quarters, and a sales staff that is doubling and moving into a showroom with skylights and plenty of glass.
When everything is up to speed, Harrelson should increases its staff from 65 to 100 people, Bobby Harrelson said.
The location was by choice. Nissan wanted to be close to Honda and Toyota. Now, customers, if they want, can walked between the three dealerships, its a about a quarter of a mile from Honda to Nissan. Sandwiched in between are Toyota and the Town Place Suites hotel.
With approximately 1,500 cars among the three dealerships it should be a great consumer experience, said Cam Stewart, general manager of the Honda dealership. Variety is the key, he added. Each dealership, Stewart said, has a different deal, each has a different product.
Nissan is hoping its aggressive rollout of new models helps it increase sales, Ames said.
Over the next 15 months, Nissan will debut new models of the Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra, Versa hatchback and Rogue. Among the high-tech features available are a blind spot indicator, a warning indicator when you wander into another traffic lane, and remote engine start, Ames said.
Earl J. Hesterberg, president and CEO of Group 1 Automotive which owns Rock Hill Toyota, knows the Harrelsons. Group 1 Automotive purchased the Toyota dealership from the Harrelsons.
Hesterberg also spent some of his almost four-decade career in the business with Nissan, helping to launch the Altima.
Group 1 Automotive spent about $7 million on its facility on Galleria Boulevard which opened in the fall of 2011. At the time, Hendrick Automotive Group made some cosmetic changes to its Rock Hill dealership, which was last remodeled in 2005.
With the opening of Harrelson Nissan, Honda Cars of Rock Hill is adding five new service bays and expanding its staff from 86 to about 100, Stewart said.
Capturing and keeping the South Carolina market is essential to the three dealerships marketing strategy. So, too, is the Charlotte market. Each sees itself as a regional dealer.
Each hopes it offers that small town feel that will keep customers coming and returning. What makes the dealerships different, Stewart said, is they are not turn-and-burn dealers where you see a different face each time you come.
Ames, who came to Rock Hill from Virginia Beach in March, knows it wont be easy. People will have to pass many fine dealerships to reach Rock Hills new auto mile, he said.
Nonetheless, Im anxious to see whats coming, taking this store places its never been.
Don Worthington 803-329-4066 email@example.com