By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
WARREN -- After 30 years of selling General Motors vehicles, Warren auto dealers Bill and Ken Sims have added a Nissan dealership to snag a share of the foreign-car market.
Sims Auto Park, their 15-acre site on Elm Road, now includes a Buick-GMC dealership, a Nissan showroom, and a used-car lot that serves both new car centers.
By month's end, the Sims brothers will complete the park with the opening of their new seven-bay service center, specializing in Asian imports, including Nissan, Toyota, Honda and others. The newest portion of the complex covers 10,164 square feet.
"With Buick we had nothing to offer a customer for under $20,000. Buick Century is their starting line. There's no Cavalier, no Grand Am, no Sunfire. Buick doesn't make a minivan or a two-door, two-seat sports car," Ken Sims explained.
"Adding Nissan will open up a whole new clientele. It will give us a new customer base."
More to offer: With Nissan, he said, the dealership can offer new vehicles starting at $12,000, and the brand makes front-wheel-drive minivans, mid-sized and luxury cars.
Industry publications have been promoting the Japanese automaker's plan to bring back its Z-car, a two-seater sports car that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Sims said the flashy model will likely attract a younger crowd.
The Simses' auto park concept will allow a customer to shop the entire complex, including three new vehicle brands and a large used-car selection, with just one stop.
"It will work out great for a customer who's not sure what they're looking for," he said.
Body business: Sims Auto Park has also forged a business relationship with True2Form, an auto body repair specialist that opened an office next door to the brothers' Nissan dealership.
The deal will ease the repair process for motorists whose vehicles have been damaged in a traffic accident because they'll be able to arrange body and mechanical repairs with a single stop.
Sims said he and his brother thought long and hard before they decided to add Nissan and the foreign-car service shop.
Although General Motor's Lordstown Assembly Plant is the Mahoning Valley's largest employer and the "buy American" sentiment is strong here, he said, area dealers still sell a healthy share of foreign-made cars. "We don't see it as a major factor," he said.
Besides, he noted, many import brands are now made domestically, and all but three Nissan models are manufactured in the United States.
The Sims brothers' father, Rudy, opened his first local Buick dealership in downtown Warren in 1970, moving his Rudy Sims Buick to its present location on Elm Road in 1973.
Shared inventory: The brothers bought the dealership in 1989 and three years later decided to add a GMC franchise. Their reasoning then was similar to the thought process that led to adding the Nissan franchise -- they wanted to offer their customers more choices, and GMC offered small trucks and vans.
"It was a natural blend," Ken Sims said.
The Simses have several relatives in the auto business in the Cleveland area, and three have Buick dealerships. That's an advantage when a customer wants a car that's not on the lot because the family-owned dealerships share their inventories.
"We work together, so it's like having the inventory of four Buick dealerships," he said.