ST. CATHERINES, ONT. – It has been a long and winding road for dealer Alex Digenis and his new Subaru of Niagara store.
He said he first contacted Subaru more than three years ago about expanding the brand’s footprint in southern Ontario. His proposal was met with a mix of interest and caution from Subaru’s executive team, he said, noting that at the time, they were interested in more output per rooftop and not necessarily adding stores.
With new models and higher volume, Digenis said the stars aligned three years later and he was granted a franchise.
“Despite the long wait I was very impressed that Subaru was so focused on dealership profitability and their loyalty to the existing dealer body,” he said. “They simply did not want to expand if that meant putting their current dealer body in a worse position.”
He opened Subaru of Niagara in St. Catherines, Ontario, roughly 30 minutes outside of Niagara Falls, with a well-attended party late last year.
The Canadian Automotive Institute graduate also owns Henley Honda across the street from the Subaru store with partner Mark Falkenberg. Falkenberg, who owns and operates Willowdale Nissan and Infiniti in Toronto, also partnered with Digenis on Hamburg Honda in Niagara Falls over a year ago. More recently, they closed a deal to purchase nearby Welland Honda.
“Within three years we have developed a nice little network of four stores in the Niagara Region,” Digenis said.
The new Subaru store is forecasted to sell 260 new Subaru's and 120 used units in 2013. In an interview with Canadian AutoWorld, Digenis said they hit their target in the first month of operation and expected to do the same in the second month.
The building was the former home of Henley Honda Used Cars and was a Subaru, Suzuki, Volvo store nine years ago prior to the Henley operation taking it over. Digenis and his partner also operate an independently branded used car operation directly next to Subaru named Skyway Fine Cars.
“We are very happy to have re-established the Subaru brand in Niagara. There are many clients that we feel will consider this unique brand of automobile as they now can be serviced locally.
He said initial sales have been well balanced throughout the lineup with Outback leading the pack.
“I am most impressed that we are winning deals against some of the more price-point focused brands as well as the higher line units. Although Subaru does not boast huge market share, I am very excited about establishing the brand in the region and showing the people of Niagara what this car company has done to the automotive world.”
One of the more clever marketing moves was the inclusion of a long mural along the entire back wall of the store Digenis said “embodied” the Niagara Region.
“Our customers are locals and we want them to know that we live in and love this community, too.”