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Germain opens store as luxury brand Infiniti revamps lineup
Infiniti has a new central Ohio store, and it arrives just as the luxury auto brand is starting a lineup revamp.
Germain Motor Co. opened the dealership this week at Easton, the second Infiniti store in the region.
The general manager is Zach Germain, 28, part of his family’s fourth generation in the car business.
Many of the new store’s employees are recent college graduates or new to the auto industry, part of his attempt to provide a different kind of experience for customers.
“I didn’t think that the way cars were sold in the past was really necessary,” he said. By that, he means that his store will avoid high-pressure sales tactics.
The store is about 10,000 square feet and has about 20 employees. It is adjacent to the other Germain Motor franchises at Easton, including Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Smart.
Zach’s father is Steve Germain, the company’s owner, and his sister is Jessica Germain, general manager of the company’s Honda store in Dublin.
He started in the family business in 2007 and worked his way up, including a recent stint as the sales manager of Germain Toyota in Sarasota, Fla. For two years, starting in 2009, he was a driver in a NASCAR developmental series for Germain Racing, which is based in North Carolina.
Infiniti, which is Nissan’s luxury brand, has struggled to keep up with its rivals. Nissan executives have pledged to jump-start Infiniti with a new vehicle lineup and a goal to nearly triple the brand’s worldwide sales.
The first model in the revamp is the Q50 sedan, which will go on sale this summer.
“There is a much bigger focus on very emotional styling and really trying to tap into what the word luxury really means,” said Ed Kim, vice president for industry analysis at AutoPacific, a research firm in Tustin, Calif.
In the past, the brand tried to be a “Japanese BMW,” he said, with styling attempted to win customers from German luxury brands.
By almost every measure, 2012 was a tough year for Infiniti. It ranked seventh among the eight luxury brands in U.S. sales with 119,499 units, according to Edmunds.com. Only Lincoln, which is going through its own revamp, was lower. The luxury leader was Mercedes-Benz.
“The numbers show an unfortunate truth for Infiniti — they’ve begun to lag behind the competition,” said Jeremy Acevedo, an Edmunds analyst, in an email.
But Acevedo sees signs that the brand is taking steps in the right direction. “They are looking to inject new life into their product lineup, hoping the new Q naming structure will usher in a new era for the brand,” he said.
Central Ohio has one Infiniti dealer, Infiniti of Columbus in Dublin, which has been open since 1992. That store, owned by Daniel Schmidt, remodeled its showroom this year.
Five years ago, Infiniti looked to add a second store in the region by awarding a franchise to Germain Motor. The dealer group waited to open the store because of the economic downturn, Zach Germain said.
The timing is turning out to be fortuitous, considering Infiniti’s current push to revitalize, he said.
“It couldn’t be a better situation to start a dealership,” he said.
By Dan Gearino
The Columbus Dispatch Friday June 7, 2013 5:29 AM