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December 14, 2016

New owner has big strategy for Warrenton dealership

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
General Manager Danny Niblett says the local dealership will expand its inventory, enlarge its staff, remodel its building and seek to triple sales.
Cars, just like eggs, are cheaper in the country. Lower cost of doing business.
— Danny Niblett, Lindsay Buick GMC general manager
Lindsay Buick-GMC
• Owner: Lindsay Automotive Group, Alexandria

• Where: 250 West Shirley Ave., Warrenton

• General Manager: Danny Niblett

• Phone: 540-347-3341

• Website: www.jimharrisauto.com

• Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
To hear the veteran car salesman, Warrenton’s Buick-GMC dealership has it all.

The business has the ability to more than triple vehicle sales in about a year, relatively low overhead, a reputation as “the hometown” dealership and “good people,” said Danny Niblett of Alexandria-based Lindsay Automotive Group.

For those and other reasons, Lindsay last month bought the dealership from Jim Harris.

Neither party would disclose the business sales price.

The buyer has renamed the dealership Lindsay Buick-GMC and hired Mr. Niblett to run it.

The business had been selling about 30 vehicles per month — about half of them new, Mr. Niblett said.

“We hope to be up to 100 per month by the end of ’17 and continue to grow from there,” he said.

About 40 percent of them would be new vehicles, the general manager said.

He has no doubt Fauquier can “support such growth,” said Mr. Niblett, who has 38 years’ experience in vehicle sales — 18 of them with Lindsay. “There’s enough out here for everybody.”

To triple sales , the dealership will expand its sales force.

When Lindsay bought the business, the dealership had two sales people, with one vacancy. He has filled that position and has four more sales people in training, Mr. Niblett said.

The dealership expects each salesperson to sell a minimum eight vehicles per month, which represents “a national average,” he explained

“We’re planning for 10 sales people by late spring,” the general manager said.

No employees have left the dealership since Lindsay bought it, Mr. Niblett said.

“We’ve kept every single person,” he said. “And, wow, are they good people. People make you or break you.”

The dealership will need to draw new customers from outside Fauquier to sell 100 vehicles a month, Mr. Niblett said.

“People enjoy coming to the country to buy a car,” Mr. Niblett said. “They don’t like the high pressure of the city dealerships. They like dealing with nice people. It’s easier to do business out here.”

The dealership also plans to increase its inventory and “dramatically” ramp up marketing to boost sales, said Mr. Niblett, 68.

When Lindsay bought the dealership, the lot had about 120 vehicles, he said. Mr. Niblett believes the property can accommodate about 350 vehicles.

Another key element of Lindsay’s growth strategy involves enlarging the Warrenton dealership’s footprint. Lindsay hopes to buy land adjoining the dealership, where it plans to construct an 8,000-square-foot building for a new showroom and offices, Mr. Niblett said.

That would allow Lindsay to devote the existing building entirely to vehicle service, he said. The dealership has six service technicians. By next summer, it could have nine, according to the general manager.

“I think that’ll be where we need to be for a year or two,” he said.

Divaris Real Estate has listed two parcels to the south, totaling about an acre, for $1.2 million. Each lot has a building, which the Virginia’s Agriculture Department had occupied for years, Divaris real estate agent Kyle Vernon said.

Mr. Vernon declined to comment on any conversations with potential buyers about the lots, which would be sold together.

Mr. Niblett also declined to talk about the properties.

James and Joanne Harris last week sold the 2.9-acre dealership property to Lindsay Holdings LLC for $2 million.

Lindsay will remodel the dealership building, Mr. Niblett said.

“We’ll hopefully be submitting the (remodeling) plans to the town in no more than two weeks,” he said last Thursday.

Jim Harris Buick-GMC proved attractive partly because of less expensive real estate and lower taxes compared to Northern Virginia. Those and other factors allow the dealership to offer buyers better prices than competitors to the east, Mr. Niblett said.

“Cars, just like eggs, are cheaper in the country,” he said. “Lower cost of doing business.”

Discussions about Lindsay buying the dealership began last summer, Mr. Harris said in a phone interview last week.

“This Lindsay outfit has been fantastic,” said Mr. Harris, who owned the dealership for 25 years. “The big issue was taking care of my people, because they are like family. They said they would take of them, and they are. I didn’t want the feeling like I walked out on them.”

His son-in-law, Rick Foard, will remain with Lindsay Buick-GMC as general sales manager.

He has no doubt the dealership will meet its sales targets, Mr. Foard said.

“We’re increasing staff, we’re increasing inventory,” he said. “When you increase staff and increase inventory, you sell more cars. Easier to do business.”

Warrenton’s Country Chevrolet sells about 100 new vehicles per month, owner Andy Budd said.

His six used lots — five in Fauquier and one just across the border on Route 29 in Prince William — sell about 225 vehicles per month, he said.

“I’m not concerned” about Lindsay’s plans for the Warrenton dealership, Mr. Budd said. “The Lindsays are good people. I wish them well.”

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