At South Carolina Nissan dealership, doing good is good for business

At South Carolina Nissan dealership, doing good is good for business

Vaden Nissan of Hilton Head exemplifies how helping the community builds a better business

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When Jane Vaden Thacher joined her family's business in 1994, she set an ambitious goal: to open and own a brand-new dealership at a younger age than her father, who opened his first dealership at 41 years old.

In 2001, at the age of 34 – and as a mother of a toddler and 3-month-old twins – she did.

"I have always done things a little differently," Thacher said. "I think because I'm a woman and because I'm a mom, it naturally gives you a different perspective."

Photocopy of a newspaper article with a man and younger woman standing together in an office.

Jane and her father, Dan Vaden, in a Savannah
Morning News article from the mid-1990s.

Now president of Vaden AutomotiveOpens in a new tab, Thacher owns and operates nine total dealerships, including four Nissan locations, throughout southeast Georgia and the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Since the beginning, Thacher has centered her business around the community by developing a robust community partnership programOpens in a new tab to thoughtfully select sponsorships and volunteer events.

"We don't just sign a check and call it a day," she said. "I only want to work with folks who want a true partner."

One of the dealership group's more recent partnerships is with Bluffton Self Help in Bluffton, South Carolina, which helps immigrants to the U.S. learn English and a variety of life skills. Currently, about 40% of sales at the Vaden Nissan Hilton HeadOpens in a new tab store is to people whose first language is something other than English.

Thacher says partnering with community organizations like Bluffton Self Help is mutually beneficial because Vaden can recruit new employees who reflect their communities, which helps bring in more customers.

"I think it's important for people who don't look like an old-school car salesman to be part of the team," Thacher said.

Jane Vaden Thacher standing in a dealership with Nissan cars behind her. She is smiling and wearing a red blouse.

Jane Vaden Thacher, president of Vaden Automotive, at one of its four Nissan dealers. Photo courtesy of Vaden Automotive.

Working with the literacy center has been a major part of Valentina Ramirez's experience since she joined Vaden Nissan Hilton Head as a salesperson in 2019. Originally from Venezuela, Ramirez knew very little English when she started working for the company.

"That first month was difficult," Ramirez said. "I was confused and struggling with my English."

But Vaden worked with Ramirez to improve her English and connected her with community events, including at Bluffton Self Help, where she was able to meet more members of the Spanish-speaking community.

"I think it's important
for people who don't look like
an old-school car salesman
to be part of the team."

– Jane Vaden Thacher

Ramirez quickly became known for her friendly approach, and she worked diligently to build her customer base.

"Most customers didn't realize there was someone who can help them in their native language," Ramirez said. "Now, I have a lot of referrals."

And in December 2023, she sold 31 cars – more than any other salesperson at Vaden Nissan Hilton Head.

The Ramirez family standing together in front of a Nissan car inside a dealership. Mom and dad wear black Vaden shirts.

Valentina Ramirez at Vaden Nissan Hilton Head with her mother and father. Photo courtesy of Vaden Automotive.

Business has gotten so busy for Ramirez that her parents are now part of the Vaden team, too. In addition to helping their daughter with customers, her mother is a custodian and her father works in the Service department, specifically with Spanish-speaking drivers.

Ramirez says young people often ask her about her work, and she always shares the same advice.

"This business changed my life," she said. "The only thing you have to do is be open to learning."

And for Vaden Automotive, understanding the power of community has been the most impactful lesson of all.

Members of the Vaden team standing in a large group holding orange bags in front of May River High School.

Members of the Vaden Automotive team at May River High School in Bluffton, South Carolina, where they host "Lunch and Learn" events to teach seniors about the exciting career paths in the automotive world. It's just one facet of the dealer group's "Vaden Cares"Opens in a new tab program. Photo courtesy of Vaden Automotive.

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