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Toyota of EC buys Alliance Nissan franchise

041416AllianceNissan

The owners of Toyota of Elizabeth City have purchased the Alliance Nissan dealership in Elizabeth City, shown here Wednesday, April 13.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Florida-based family that has controlling ownership of Toyota of Elizabeth City has acquired the Albemarle region’s franchise rights to Nissan from Alliance Nissan.

Fil Catania, executive manager of Toyota of Elizabeth City, said that Buchanan Automotive Group will succeed the family of the late Outer Banks businessman Billy Roughton as Alliance Nissan’s operators. Catania, who was not in on the negotiations, said he did not know whether the deal called for the Buchanan Automotive Group to acquire Alliance Nissan’s buildings and grounds.

However, Catania, in an interview last week, said Buchanan Automotive Group will hire an executive manager to run the Nissan dealership, which he said will probably be renamed Alliance Nissan of Elizabeth City.

“We heard that the franchise was available and we pursued it with the Roughton family and through Nissan,” he said. “We saw tremendous potential.”

Billy Roughton died suddenly in early July at age 70, leaving his wife and three daughters with controlling interests in the dealership. Information began surfacing last month that the Roughton family survivors had agreed to sell their interests, paving the way for the Buchanan family to buy the franchise.

With the success of a revamped Toyota of Elizabeth City in the 1000 block of Halstead Boulevard, Catania said he believed securing the franchise rights to Nissan from Alliance Nissan, in the 1700 block of North Road Street, “was a sure win for our automotive group.”

Attempts to obtain comment from Alliance Nissan officials for this story were unsuccessful. Jeannie Whited, a spokeswoman for Nissan USA, said last week that Nissan does not comment about the business matters of Nissan franchise holders.

Catania on Tuesday afternoon said he does not know who specifically contacted whom about a deal with Alliance Nissan, but he estimates the talks between Alliance Nissan and Buchanan Automotive Group had been ongoing for roughly a few months. He said he believes the handshake confirming the deal occurred probably within the last month.

Catania said while he does not know how many are working at Alliance Nissan, “Our intentions are not to go in and replace people. Our full intention is to go in and get the franchise moving in the right direction.”

The present Alliance Nissan location was opened in early 2005. Prior to that, the Nissan dealership had, since the summer of 1998, been located in the 1900 block of North Road Street, at what’s presently the home of the Bedliners Plus truck accessories store.

As for Alliance Nissan’s appearance, he said, “We have no intentions of going in and changing anything, except for trying to implement some good policies and procedures.”

Congressman Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Florida, acquired the local Toyota dealership in 2004, marking his first venture into North Carolina. Previously, the dealership had been owned by the Wayne Perry automobile dealership family.

Catania, 48, is a Nebraska native who started out in the mid-1990s selling vehicles in his home state for a short time before relocating to Florida and selling vehicles for numerous dealerships.

He settled in at Buchanan Automotive Group-owned dealership, Space Coast Honda, close to Cape Canaveral, before relocating to Elizabeth City in September to become the new operating partner at Toyota of Elizabeth City. He has been quite busy since arriving.

Catania said he has found residents of the Elizabeth City area dislike aggressive sales tactics and made clear his and his team of approximately 50 employees emphasize the soft sell.

“The same policy and procedures we have at our Toyota store will be over at Nissan,” he said.

He said believes his and his team’s approach at Toyota of Elizabeth City has worked well, as shown by an increase in the pace of business. “We’re on a tremendous growth spurt,” he said. “Our service business has more than doubled,” he also said.

Additionally, Catania has sought to keep Toyota of Elizabeth City in the public eye by backing the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce. He emphasized his belief in keeping dollars local, in the Albemarle region and on the Outer Banks.

“I’m not big on pumping it into Virginia, I’m really not,” he said.

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