Steering a legacy

Economy Nissan celebrates 30-year anniversary in Durango

Economy Nissan owner Monte Roder, left, stands with his son David in this old family photo. Enlarge photo

Economy Nissan owner Monte Roder, left, stands with his son David in this old family photo.

Monte Roder’s secret to success is not a secret. It’s not a new technique. In fact, it’s ancient.

It’s simply the Golden Rule: Treat other people they way you want to be treated.

“We try to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes,” said Roder, President of Economy Nissan in Durango, which offers new and pre-owned vehicles and a service center at 20704 Highway 160. Roder’s rule applies to his staff as well. “You’ve probably heard horror stories about car dealers who run their business like a dictator. I don’t want to be that guy – the jerk boss. If you are, you’ll wind up with people who are always looking for another job, and customers who don’t come back.”

Economy Nissan is celebrating 30 years in business this year. Roder started in the industry in 1973 working for a local Ford dealer. They bought Economy Datsun in Salida in 1982, which moved to Durango in September of 1985.

“When we came here, there was a window,” said Roder. “There were not many import vehicles for sale. A lot of people were interested – it was new and exciting.”

Three decades later, Roder said longevity is a result of adaptability, consistency and luck.

Embracing technology has been critical in the auto industry. A new Nissan sold for $5,995 in 1985. Back then, Roder said business was entirely different: no computers, no Internet.

“We didn’t have calculators or digital watches. Some people can’t even imagine that,” said Roder. “There was no fax machine: We had to dial the rotary phone and read the credit application. You used to just show up and sell cars. Now it’s endless stuff that gets thrown at you. The world has changed.”

A lot of business now takes place online, and Roder uses tools such as an iPad app of an interactive showroom.

Benny Gutierrez, a seven-year sales and leasing employee, enthusiastically showed off the technical wonders of the new Nissan LEAF on June 18 at the showroom. The sleek, all-electric car, which starts at $35,200, is filled with the latest electronic gizmos, including a heated steering wheel and seats, navigation system and a rear-view camera for ease of parking.

Roder recalls a trip to the World’s Fair in New York City when he was a kid. He said there was a Jetsons-like version of a car that was like the ones we have today – except for flying around.

“The car world has turned into the future. The future is here,” he said.

Roder has built a legacy to pass down to his son, Executive Manager David Roder. David worked his way up from the bottom: washing cars as a teenager, then moving into sales and eventually his current position. “This is a title that has to be earned from Nissan,” said Monte Roder. “With this designation, David has full authority to deal with Nissan in any capacity if I am not at the store. He runs the store in my absence.”

“Working with family is a good thing, although it can pose challenges,” said Monte Roder. “I think my way is the right way, and I can be controlling.”

Monte Roder’s daughter, Makena Avarell, works on a scanning program for Nissan at home while she cares for her two young children. Makena helps the business be environmentally friendly by saving documents in an offsite server, which eliminates paper use and storage.

Makena’s husband, Cameron Avarell, started his first day on the job June 18. He had the look of a kid in a candy store.

“I really like cars – I always have. And this is a place I’ve always wanted to work,” he said, noting that many longtime employees told him they “bounced around” to many dealerships before settling at Economy Nissan.

Consistency is key. Happy employees translate into repeat business and happy customers, according to Roder. In a competitive industry where sales people are known for being overly assertive, Roder said friendly, longtime employees “give customers a certain level of comfort.”

Roder said the lucky part of his longevity is that Nissan is a good-quality brand. “They’re good on gas, they don’t break and they’re good-looking.” Specializing in one franchise as the smallest dealer in town is beneficial, because the staff knows the product very well – they can be experts. “Having just Nissans is easier for us. And it’s easier for our customers,” said Roder.

As many longtime business owners agree, Roder said Durango can be a hard place to live because the costs are high and people’s incomes are not keeping up. Not every year has been great, but Roder continues to show up.

“You gotta be here,” he said. “I know many dealers who don’t go to the shop. They allow the different levels of management to run it. But a dealer has to know how to sell cars. You use your experience to help you survive the tough times.”

Shiny cars are lined up for sale for sale in mid-June at Economy Nissan. Enlarge photo

Shiny cars are lined up for sale for sale in mid-June at Economy Nissan.

Photo courtesy of Monte Roder
David, left, and Monte Roder hold an award from Nissan for 30 years of service on Feb. 12, 2012. Enlarge photo

Photo courtesy of Monte Roder David, left, and Monte Roder hold an award from Nissan for 30 years of service on Feb. 12, 2012.

Monte Roder’s son-in-law, Cameron Avarell, smiles during his first day on the job at Economy Nissan. Enlarge photo

Monte Roder’s son-in-law, Cameron Avarell, smiles during his first day on the job at Economy Nissan.

A 1985 ad announces the opening of the business in Durango. Enlarge photo

A 1985 ad announces the opening of the business in Durango.