Follow-Up File: Car dealer navigates bumpy road

Name: Ted Miles

Job: Owner

Business: Ted Miles Motors

What he said then: In May 2009, The Tribune reported that Chrysler was cutting ties with two local Jeep dealerships.

Ted Miles Jeep in Atascadero and Perry Jeep were among 789 dealerships nationwide that lost franchises as part of Chrysler’s bankruptcy restructuring.

“I’m hurt,” said Ted Miles, “and I feel like I’ve been abandoned and left out in the cold here.”

His business — then the only dedicated Jeep dealership in San Luis Obispo County — was given until June 9 to sell the Jeeps on the lot. It had represented the brand since 1987.Miles returned to selling exclusively used cars, vowing to not lay off his nine employees.

What he says now: The transition to used car dealer Ted Miles Motors has had its bumps, especially in lending.

But it has also made Miles’ life simpler.

“When it first happened to me, I was pretty down in the dumps,” he said. But “there’s a lot less pressure being an independent car dealer.”

Before, Miles felt pushed on one side by the manufacturer to buy more inventory, then on the other side by Chrysler Financial for payment.

“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” recalled Miles.

When Chrysler dumped Ted Miles, so did large lenders like Bank of America and Chase, he said. That has been the biggest hurdle in the transition.

But local credit unions stepped up and lent to Miles’ customers. Support from Sesloc Federal Credit Union, CoastHills Federal Credit Union and Golden 1 Credit Union have meant his company’s “survival.”

“When you’re a new car dealer, you have clout with banks and lending institutions,” Miles said. “When you become a used car dealer, you have to prove yourself.

“Bigger banks aren’t lending like they used to,” he added. “The credit unions are aggressive to be in the car industry. They’ve been there for us.”

He’s still got eight of his employees. Miles credits their loyalty and the loyalty of customers for the company’s survival when other dealerships closed or went bankrupt after losing their franchise.

Chrysler is reinstating some dealerships across the nation. Miles’ wasn’t one and even if he’d been selected, he wouldn’t have been able to afford the associated property improvement requirements. In December, San Luis Obispo’s Cole Chrysler was awarded a Jeep franchise.

At Ted Miles Motors, used Jeeps are still big sellers, with sport utility vehicles and trucks. More fuel-efficient cars like Hondas aren’t as in demand, he said, partly because new ones don’t cost much more than used.

“People are looking more for the value of a used car versus a new car,” Miles added. “My backbone’s been in used cars. I started out as a used car dealer 35 years ago.”

— Raven J. Railey