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Renier Helps Germain Kick Expansion into High Gear with Infiniti Dealership

Germain kicks expansion into gear with new Infiniti dealership, Michigan acquisition

With tougher economic times in the rearview mirror, Germain Motor Co. is driving toward a better future.

The Columbus-based automotive group has broken ground on a new Infiniti dealership, in addition to acquiring a four-brand operation in Ann Arbor, Mich., this month.

“The economy, at least for the auto industry, is moving forward,” owner Steve Germain said.

So Germain is moving forward, too. Construction begins this month on Germain Infiniti of Easton on Morse Road, a new neighbor to Germain’s Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and Smart dealerships at Easton Town Center. The project follows the company’s Sept. 1 purchase of Howard Cooper Import Center in Michigan. That deal added the Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen nameplates to the Germain portfolio, as well as a third Honda franchise.

The cost of both initiatives wasn’t disclosed.

The Infiniti dealership has been nearly eight years in the making and brings a showroom for the Nissan Motor Co. luxury badge to the city’s east side for the first time. Germain was awarded a franchise from Infiniti in 2004, but the recession idled plans to develop it.

“We started to work through the process, which takes a few years anyway, and by that time it was 2007-2008 and the economy was in question,” Germain said.

to infiniti ...

Infiniti will become Germain’s first new dealership since he opened the Cadillac and Mercedes showrooms at Easton in 2006.

“We’re definitely ready,” he said. “The wait has been well worth it.”

The car line fits neatly into the company’s luxury Easton holdings, Germain said. He expects sales of 50 Infinitis a month to be below the Mercedes dealership’s performance but above that of his Cadillac franchise. Though Cadillac sells more vehicles nationwide than Infiniti, there are more Caddy dealerships, so the sales per dealership for Infiniti are higher.

Infiniti was the seventh-best-selling luxury brand in the U.S. in 2011 with 98,461 vehicles sold. Its top seller is the G sedan, followed by the G coupe and M sedan. A redesigned G and the JX crossover are in the company’s plans.

Germain Infiniti, at 10,552 square feet on 5 acres, will front Morse Road. Almost 9,000 square feet will be devoted to the showroom and lounge, with the remainder a service drop-off area. The service operation will be off site. Germain expects to add 25 jobs with the dealership.

Renier Construction Inc. is doing the building. Architectural Alliance Ltd. handled the design.

“It has elements of the manufacturer’s design, but it has a bit of a flair of Easton architecture,” said Renier President Bill Heifner.

The building will include a glass wall that is a hallmark of Infiniti dealerships, and elements that show off the traditional Easton brick-and-limestone look.

“It’s not over the top. There are no elements just for the sake of having elements,” Germain said.

Renier is a seasoned hand at auto dealership construction, but Germain Infiniti will present challenges because the land slopes 12 feet from one end to the other. The Mercedes and Cadillac dealerships have a parking garage underneath their showrooms to create its elevation. To bring Infiniti to that same elevation, more than 20,000 cubic yards of dirt will be moved to create the 6 feet of additional height.

... and beyond

Germain sold and leased 4,751 vehicles in Central Ohio in 2011, making it the area’s fourth-largest dealership, according to Columbus Business First research. It also runs dealerships in Florida. Brother Rick Germain, operating Germain Automotive Partnership, is responsible for Germain-brand Lexus, Ford, Nissan and Mazda dealerships. The brothers last year separated their dealership operations.

The Michigan purchase gives Steve Germain three German car lines and adds a third Honda dealership.

“The brands speak for themselves,” Germain said. “Volkswagen and Audi are on more shopping lists than ever before.”

They also can attract a younger customer base that isn’t necessarily the buyer for a lot of Germain’s other holdings.

“You have 3.3 million people within an hour’s drive,” he said. “It’s a young, educated, affluent market. That’s a great fit with our operation and strategy.”

Volkswagen and Audi sales are outpacing the market, according to an August report from Presidio Merchant Partners LLC. Infiniti and Honda are on par with the market growth. That report also said private dealers are on pace for record profits, putting the value of large dealer groups up 23 percent since 2006.

Acquisitions and new construction are ways to reinvest those earnings. Though dealership buyouts nationally are down for the first six months of this year, Central Ohio dealers have been busy reinvesting in their holdings. Team Buckeye recently purchased a Lancaster Toyota dealership.

Chesrown Auto Group and Bobby Layman Chevrolet are in the midst of rebuilding projects, and Crown Dealership Group is building a Fiat showroom and several others are remodeling.

Germain expects the Infiniti dealership and the Michigan acquisition to keep him busy and said no other deals are in the works.

“We need to get these projects moving forward first,” he said.

Dan Eaton covers retail, restaurants, manufacturing, automotive and the advertising/PR industry for Business First.-

Renier Helps Germain Kick Expansion into High Gear with Infiniti Dealership

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Posted in: Automotive