Michael Jordan Nissan: Nissan’s First LED Showroom

Michael Jordan Nissan has become one of the first Nissan dealerships to use LED lighting almost exclusively inside and out.

LED Lit Auto Showroom

 When Michael Jordan Nissan opened in 1990, the Durham, N.C. car dealership was state-of-the-art. More than one decade of success later, the dealership’s management team partnered with Eddie Gontram, principal of Gontram Architecture in nearby Raleigh, to plan a renovation.

Taking the car dealership’s motto to heart – “We strive to be the best” – Michael Jordan Nissan’s managing Partner Ray Vrscak and Gontram selected an LED lighting solution from Cree, which is also headquartered in Durham.

Prior to the renovation, Vrscak experienced constant bulb and ballast outages, color-shifting lighting, plus high maintenance and energy costs. To remedy these issues, the remodeled dealership included an upgrade to the exterior lot lighting as well as a reconfiguration of the entire interior space.

Commercial lighting LED Showroom

Dealerships typically follow a Nissan spec during construction projects, however, Vrscak worked closely with Nissan Corporate to evaluate how Cree’s LED lighting solutions could fit within those parameters. One interesting result was a change for the L1 fixtures, also known as the Nissan cloud. Michael Jordan Nissan became the first dealership to use an LED solution for the cloud — a decision that was so successful that Nissan is considering adopting the Cree solution for the corporate spec.

The cloud is a Nissan design element that features a group of fixtures − typically fluorescents − sitting directly over the showroom cars. With the traditional cloud configuration, mismatch becomes a problem says Gontram.  “The cloud fixture may be nice right out of the box, but give it …just a year, they start replacing lamps. They only replace what burns out and sometimes they replace with the wrong color lamp,” he explains.

Since the Cree solution offers lower energy usage with much longer lamp life, the quality of light coming from the cloud remains consistent for years. “LEDs provide that nice, even illumination; and it’s nice not having that maintenance above all those cars,” Vrscak confirms.

Currently the dealership is approximately 75-percent LED lighting, with the mechanics’ shop next in line for a retrofit. To date, the installation encompasses nearly 300 Cree LED fixtures throughout the complex. The interior solution includes SR6™ LED architectural downlights; CR22™ and CR24™ LED troffers (some with emergency back-up), and LR6™ LED downlights. All of the fixtures rely on Cree TrueWhite® technology to deliver beautiful, high-quality illumination with good optical control and color rendering while providing energy-efficient and near maintenance-free lighting. The exterior lot utilizes Cree Edge™ High Output LED area lights plus Cree Edge™ LED flood and Cree Edge™ LED security luminaires. The Cree Edge™ High Output solution features Automotive FrontlineOptic™ Technology that delivers light precisely on target with the capability to reduce energy consumption by more than 50 percent over traditional technologies. All of the new lighting at Michael Jordan Nissan is under a 10-year warranty.

“There’s nothing worse than customers walking out into a dark lot to look at a new car and they can’t see,” Vrscak explains.  One of the most important benefits of LED over metal halide is the reduction in maintenance. “Every time the wind blew here, I’d lose a ballast,” he adds. “I was spending about $12,000 a year; now, that goes to zero. Every car dealer understands [the experience of] driving off the lot at night and [seeing] three poles out. It’s painful because it looks bad and you’ve got to make that phone call the next morning. It’s a thousand bucks…every time. Since we’ve installed these lights, I haven’t had a light out and I don’t expect to have a light out for a long, long time. That’s payback.”

Speaking of financial advantages, Cree played an important role in securing rebates for the renovation, with up to 15 percent of the project paid for by utility incentives. “When you get a check from your power company − I’ve never seen one of those before − that’s a really good day,” Vrscak states.

For the exterior, Gontram and Vrscak did not want to tear up the parking lot or install more poles. Fortunately, they didn’t have to. The new Cree Edge™ High Output fixtures offer light levels that are similar to the previous lights, but seem much brighter because of the quality of the LED light. Full light cutoff ensures no light pollution spills onto adjacent properties, while the reduced wattage levels should allow for an anticipated annual energy savings of 58 percent. By lowering energy bills and maintenance costs, the exterior lighting solution has an estimated payback of 2.8 years.

Noise reduction was an unexpected benefit. “You don’t have the buzz of the ballast [especially on] the exterior. Those old metal halides were very, very noisy; these are just silent,” Vrscak says. However, the biggest difference that he has noticed is the light quality.  “When you walk the rows of cars, you can actually see the colors; the colors really stand out,” he notes.

Buying a car is a highly visual and emotional experience. Thanks to the renovation, Michael Jordan Nissan now provides consistent lighting throughout the lot, showrooms, offices, and service bays. The dealership plans to continue installing fixtures with the goal of 100-percent conversion to LED lighting.

About Edward Frebowitz
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