Auburn Nissan Movin’ On Up
Auburn Nissan has gone through a lot of changes in the dozen or so years the business has been in Auburn. Originally called 49er Nissan, the dealership was bought by Magnussen Dodge, which sold the Nissan portion of the business to Auburn Honda, which sold the Nissan dealership to its present owner and General Manager, Michael Barbieri, in June 2005.
Barbieri’s ownership is so new, he jokes about how many months, days and hours he’s been in business at Auburn Nissan. He had previously owned a Toyota dealership in the Fresno/Clovis area, but, after a visit to Auburn, Barbieri and his wife fell in love with the foothills. When they found out the Nissan dealership was for sale, they jumped at the opportunity to relocate their family to Auburn. “It was a quality of life move,” says Barbieri, adding that his teenaged sons also approved of the relocation.
Building Auburn Nissan into a successful business has been challenging, according to Barbieri. Because Nissan, as a manufacturer, was (combined) with the Dodge dealership, not a lot of people knew about the Nissan presence,” Barbieri said. “There weren’t a whole lot of customers that were coming back, looking for Nissan service…it really was like building a dealership from the ground floor.”
In addition, Barbieri has had to convince the community that he’s not a ‘city slicker’ and is here for the long haul. In past years, a dealership owner might have been an out-of-towner, not even familiar with the area the business served, but not Barbieri. He is an active member of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, the local Hospital Foundation, and the Downtown Auburn Rotary Club and financially supports local sports teams and non-profits. “We’ve been very blessed in this business and we just want to continue to give that back and be a community supporter,” Barbieri said.
He must be doing something right because the dealership has increased sales from 25 cars each month back in 2005 to over 100 cars sold in September this year. “It’s been a huge improvement and we’re tracking to do over a hundred cars again this month,” Barbieri said.
Part of that success can be attributed to new and updated Nissan models available to consumers for 2008. The 2007 Altima sedan was completely redesigned for 2008, including the suspension, performance, safety, body styling and the addition of a CVT (Continuously Varying Transmission) system, which was introduced in 2003 with the Nissan Murano SUV. The CVT, which has an infinite number of gear ratios available, creating optimum fuel economy and performance, was added to the Nissan Maxima in 2006. The now second-generation transmission system is now part of Nissan’s entire line of vehicles, including the Altima, Maxima, Versa, Sentra, Murano and Rogue, except for trucks and larger SUVs, according to Wendy Emery, Internet Manager for Auburn Nissan.
The only hybrid offered by Nissan is an Altima sedan. “They didn’t try to invent the wheel,” said Emery. “They introduced the hybrid once the technology was really well-proven in the market. They basically licensed that technology from Toyota.” Coupled with Nissan’s unique strengths, such as the eCVT system in a sporty, roomy, mid-sized sedan, the Altima hybrid can be customized to meet every consumer’s needs, from base model to a fully-equipped luxury ride. A 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is standard with the hybrid Altima, which averages 35mpg city, 31mpg highway, according to the new 2008 EPA estimates. An added incentive to buy the Nissan hybrid is a government tax-incentive (about $2300); information about eligibility is available at http://www.fuelecono
Nissan’s answer to the small-car market, the Versa, was Consumer Digest’s Best Buy vehicle for 2007. A new Versa sedan is available for 2008, featuring Versa’s ‘great head and leg room’, roof-mounted curtain and seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air bags, good gas mileage (30mpg city/36mpg hwy), and it received the highest safety rating available for small cars, Emery said. Sporting the CVT system or a manual transmission, the Versa generates 122 horsepower with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.
New to the Nissan line is the Rogue SUV, a smaller version of the Murano, Emery said. “It’s also Nissan’s entry way into a four-cylinder all-wheel drive,” she added. Highly anticipated, Auburn Nissan had three Rogues delivered on recent Friday and sold two of them immediately. “It drives more like a car,” Emery says, “but has a very capable all-wheel drive and is also available in a front-wheel drive.”
The dealership will be at a new location by the end of this year, moving down the road to 536 Grass Valley Highway, near Interstate 80. “Our business is getting ready to go through a huge expansion,” Barbieri said. The building, formerly the site of the Auburn Cineplex and most recently a motorcycle store, is on a hill that will make the dealership easy to spot from the road. He plans to use the current location as home to a franchised used vehicle outlet, a car wash and a quick-lube business after the dealership moves in December. Although those businesses will be separately owned and operated, Barbieri says they will utilize the same standards of customer service and quality employees now in use at Auburn Nissan.
“Our goal is to continue on our mission of really award-winning customer service, to continue to provide a phenomenal product, to continue to sell quality used vehicles as well and to continue to enjoy the wonderful lifestyle that the foothills have to offer,” Barbieri said.
Auburn Nissan is currently located at 2630 Grass Valley Highway. Information is available by calling 530-823-7235 or 1-800-908-7439 and on the Internet at http://www.auburnnissan.com .
NASCAR Note: Martinsville provided typical short-track action for the Nextel Cup drivers, with what is beginning to be a typical finish: Jimmie Johnson won again, his seventh victory of the season. But it wasn’t enough to catch teammate Jeff Gordon, who still leads by 53 points over Johnson in the Chase for the Championship. With four races left in the season, the Cup drivers head to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
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