Oldest Nissan Dealership
East of The Mississippi Changes Hands
Watson Family has Sold Sunbelt Nissan to the Bob Richards® Automotive Group

After over 50 years as a successful Nissan retailer, Mike Watson and family have decided to retire and sell their family’s interest in Sunbelt Nissan to the Bob Richards Automotive Group, which currently owns and operates Nissan, Toyota, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram franchises in the Augusta, GA area. Mike Watson commented, ”Yes, it is true. I have decided to retire, but I wanted to let you know that the Bob Richards® Automotive Group is among the very finest, with a tradition of excellence for many, many years. They have successfully operated their Nissan dealership just up the road a bit in North Augusta, and they know Nissan products well. They maintain a focus on the customer and also on the community, and they are a model corporate citizen. I have great respect for the Richards family and their organization, and I feel with utmost confidence that they will continue to take excellent care of you and your Nissan automobile for years to come. It’s been an amazing 50 years selling and servicing Nissan cars, trucks, vans and SUVs in this community. Let’s hope the next 50 years are just as much fun for the Bob Richards® Automotive Group and the new Bob Richards® Nissan of Augusta.” He added, ”over the years, I cannot count how many times we’ve been approached by parties interested in acquiring our business. But for me, it’s not just selling a business, it’s selling the business AND the responsibility of taking care of the thousands of customers that helped my family build the business. For this reason, the Richards group was an easy decision for me.”

Mike Watson has been the dealer principal of Sunbelt Nissan for over 40 years and has earned the title of being the longest continually operating Nissan dealer east of the Mississippi River. In 1974, Mike took over dealership operations from his father who had established Sunbelt Nissan 11 years prior. Mike’s father, Jim Watson, was an army veteran and survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jim began a Datsun store on a small lot in Augusta, GA before the manufacturer changed their name to Nissan. Mike’s mother, Janell Watson, contributed as well, and would type up each vehicle’s window sticker on her typewriter. She has continued to enthusiastically assist in operations just like the day it began.

Mike was born to Jim and Janell Watson in Augusta, GA and has one sister, Pat Warren, who also contributed greatly to the dealership over the years. Mike graduated from Butler High School in 1966 as the student body president, and went on to attend the University of South Carolina where he earned a degree in Business Administration and an Air Force commission.

From 1968, Mike served in the U.S. Air Force for four years operating as an air traffic control officer. During Mike’s service tours, he spent time in Cape Canaveral where he met his wife of over 40 years, Sandra Watson. Sandra traveled with Mike on his tours, including two years at Kadena Air Force Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa. In 1974, Mike and Sandra returned to Augusta, GA where Mike began assisting his father with operations at their Nissan dealership and had three children, Courtney, Michael and Matthew. On his father’s decision to retire and sell Sunbelt Nissan, Matthew Watson noted, ”Over these many years, our family has enjoyed every minute of our journey. From the early days of Datsun, to the name changeover to Nissan, to new and exciting products, and finally today, our family has enjoyed an outstanding automotive franchise that is among the country’s and the world’s leaders, poised for much more growth and success. Most of all, we have enjoyed and value the thousands of dedicated Sunbelt customers, many of whom we built rich personal friendships with and made our business such a success.

Between 1974 and 2016, Mike Watson operated as many as three Nissan dealership across Georgia and South Carolina, served on Nissan’s national dealer advisory board and has sustained a successful Nissan operation through multiple economic recessions. Over the last 53 years, Mike Watson has employed hundreds of employees and served tens of thousands of satisfied Nissan customers. Multi-generational employees and their families have all wished Mike well in his retirement.

For more information, please contact Jack Brennan at 803-819-5372 or


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