The garage door rolls up as a black Nissan Versa pulls into the air-conditioned service center on a scorching June day.
A woman gets out of the sedan, hands her keys off to a technician and walks over to a lounge with plush seats, four large TVs and a coffee bar stocked full of complimentary drinks, fruit and pastries to wait for her oil change.
This is the new Central Houston Nissan, the latest and largest Nissan dealership in the country, a sprawling facility spanning 162,500 square feet on 16 acres off the 610 Loop near NRG Stadium. The two-story dealership, which will mark the completion of its five-year, $50 million expansion with a grand opening celebration Wednesday night, was designed to woo customers in the Houston’s hyper-competitive car market.
“We’ve got to be able to wow our customers,” Fernando Somoza, Central Houston Nissan’s president and managing partner said during a media tour Wednesday. “We want to give them a whole different experience.”
Car dealerships — known for stale coffee, vending machines and stark waiting rooms — are getting multimillion-dollar makeovers as competition heats up for ever-demanding buyers amid dwindling new vehicle sales. Dealerships across the country are installing multiple lounges, children’s play areas, coffee and doughnut shops and new technologies to draw buyers and keep them coming back.
Central Automotive Group, which owns Central Houston Nissan and other dealerships in Houston and Austin, hatched plans in 2013 to expand Nissan’s presence here. Some 30,000 vehicles are sold annually across all dealerships inside the 610 Loop, more than are sold in some states in a year, Somoza said.
The Houston company had revenue of $150 million in 2018, and is on track to hit $165 million in revenue this year, Somoza said. Nissan, which has a 6 percent market share in Houston, sells vehicles from a $14,000 Kick crossover SUV to a $116,000 GT-R sports car that can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a mere 2.9 seconds.
Central Automotive Group bought property adjacent to Central Houston Nissan, including a Motel 6, Joe’s Crab Shack and a Kelsey-Seybold office, to more than triple the acreage of the longtime Nissan dealership. The company opened a used car showroom featuring 50 reconditioned vehicles, a body and paint shop and a photo studio for online car listings — in addition to the new Nissan showroom and service center on the site.
Central Houston Nissan, which sold about 6,000 new and used vehicles last year, is looking to sell 6,700 vehicles this year, Somoza said. Nissan sales are up 4 percent so far this year, driven by sales of Sentra, Altima and Rogue, he added.
“Houston is a big market and we want to grow it,” Somoza said. “To grow it, we’ve got to have a big footprint.”
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Car dealerships – known for stale coffee, vending machines and stark waiting rooms – are getting multimillion-dollar makeovers as competition heats up for ever-demanding buyers amid dwindling new vehicle sales, threat of new tariffs and the rise of car-sharing companies.