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Just Give Him a Year

Greg Brown has orchestrated a 12-month turnaround at three dealerships in the past 15 years. Now, the owner of two of California’s top-volume Nissan stores is ready for his next challenge.

January 2012, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Tariq Kamal

Buena Park Nissan in Orange County, Calif., should be deserted. Dealer Greg Brown says the previous owners told their OEM that the “point” could never be a success. But just outside his office, the crowded showroom is humming with conversation. Customers and staff are walking around vehicles and huddling over tables. Car doors are slamming and phones are ringing.

By the way, it’s the middle of a Thursday afternoon.

So what changed? What is Brown’s big secret? He nods, considering the question, and then answers quickly. “People and processes,” he says. He then adds, “Great service.”

Clearly, there’s more to it, and Brown will elaborate. But sticking to the basics has already allowed him to engineer three one-year turnarounds in his first 15 years in the business.

Training and Early Success

Brown’s dealership career began in 1997 at a Ford store in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. The owners sent him to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Dealer Academy in McLean, Va., and he credits that training, along with the expertise and encouragement of his dealer principal, with helping prepare him to take over as the store’s GM in 1999. He was determined to make the most of it.

“It was an old facility, way up in the Valley,” he says. “But in 12 months, we were one of the top volume and top profit stores in California.”

With youth on his side, Brown had enough energy left over to start a family and build a real estate portfolio. He lived modestly and saved his money, hoping to buy a stake in the dealership. It didn’t happen.

“I wanted that opportunity, but there wasn’t going to be a partnership at the Ford store,” he says. He left in 2006 and started looking for a good deal somewhere else.

Buena Park became the No. 2 Nissan dealership in California despite competition from neighboring Honda and Toyota stores and a 22-dealer auto mall.
Buena Park became the No. 2 Nissan dealership in California despite competition from neighboring Honda and Toyota stores and a 22-dealer auto mall.

Buena Park and Puente Hills

When Brown first drove onto the lot at Buena Park Nissan, he found a recently remodeled store located just off the Golden State Freeway and not far from the city of Anaheim. It seemed like a great location, but Nissan told him the company’s sales penetration in that market was among the OEM’s worst. Toyota and Honda were taking the lion’s share of Orange County’s Japanese import business, and their dealerships are located along the same stretch of Buena Park’s Auto Center Drive.

Brown was undeterred. He took over the point and aimed for the same goal he’d set at the Ford store. One year later, Buena Park wasn’t the No. 1 Nissan dealer in the state. It was No. 2. “Second-best in California,” Brown says, smiling. “Three years in a row, now.”

Nissan was impressed. In early 2010, they offered Brown an open point 20 minutes away, this time in the San Gabriel Valley, at the foot of the Puente Hills. He soon learned that “open point” was an understatement — the former Superior Nissan would be closed a full year and a half before Brown reopened the store as Puente Hills Nissan in August 2010. After only a year, it was No. 4 in California.

Comment

  1. 1. Tom Wilson [ January 19, 2012 @ 12:21PM ]

    Greg Brown's formula for success is so beautifully simple that it escapes a bulk of this industry looking for the magic bullet - People and Processes. Here's a dealer who, "gets it." Surround yourself with good people, train and develop them and hold them to standards of excellence. Thank you, Greg Brown, for being one of the good guys and for setting an example for others to follow.

  2. 2. Chris Bonilla [ January 21, 2012 @ 06:18PM ]

    Lee Iacocca said it best... "In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you've got a good team, you can't do much with the other two." Nice work Greg Brown and team.

  3. 3. Ricardo Campos [ August 08, 2012 @ 07:06PM ]

    This is the best place I've worked at hands down ! The customers react The same way. "I would have bought at Toyota a much newer Tundra, the titan is a 9 year old design! "but the sales guy acted like he diddnt want it" the customer said "I bought here because the level of service " thats what she got and could not refuse. People buy from people they like.

  4. 4. Pancho Marana [ July 03, 2013 @ 08:45AM ]

    I kinda miss Buena Park Nissan because of the great teamwork of the staff..great and talented people across the board for sure.

  5. 5. Michael Moore [ January 06, 2016 @ 02:55PM ]

    I have been screwed by his Nissan location. I think his success is to lie and promise and after you purchase a car they change what they told you.

  6. 6. Chris Gonzalez [ February 19, 2016 @ 08:10PM ]

    Its nice to see dealers like this who are doing business the right way. My cousin bought a car from them and the vehicle was having issues. the dealership took the vehicle back and got them a new one without charging them anything! we were all very impressed. its nice to see them doing well

  7. 7. Art Jimenez [ September 10, 2016 @ 08:27AM ]

    Its nice to see privately owned dealers like Brown still doing well. I used to shop at his Nissan store in buena park and always had a great exeperience. And i just bought a Ford at Browns Puente Hills Ford Store. great place and great service!!

 

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