Robert Peltier loves cars and business.
After buying his first car dealership in Tyler more than two decades ago, he is preparing to open his fourth — Peltier Subaru — in April.
He went to work selling Buicks for Duke Covert in Austin and moved up the chain to sales manager. Peltier told the owner, “I want to own my own dealership,” he said. The man told him that because of his Louisiana accent, his English wasn't good enough for Texans. But Peltier bought his first store at 28 years old.
He searched in several southern states, including Florida, Georgia and Alabama before he found Courtesy Pontiac Inc. in Tyler. He said it was a “broken store” that was basically shut down and he bought it cheap in December 1989.
In 2000, Peltier bought Beaver Chevrolet in Lufkin, and five years later added McDonald Chevrolet in Troup. He relocated that dealership to Whitehouse and later bought King Chevrolet, and in 2006 combined the stores into one dealership.
Peltier now has a Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership in Lufkin and Chevrolet and Nissan dealerships on Loop 323 in Tyler. When asked if he plans to open more dealerships, he said, “That's what I do … If somebody would sell, I'd buy.”
He does triathlons and half Iron Man races. Those hobbies, his family and cars are what he loves, he said.
Peltier and his wife of 28 years, Mary K., have two sons, Robbie, 26, and Patrick, 24, and two daughters, Katie, 18, and Peyton, 16.
Patrick, 24, is working for a car dealership but doesn't plan to take over the family business. Peltier said his son told him, “I want my own store and to be my own guy.”
“I thought, what is Subaru?” Peltier said. He began studying the company and found that since 2004, Subaru hasn't put anything in a land field, he said. Peltier toured Subaru's plant, which has 3,500 employees on 1,000 acres in Lafayette, Ind. He found that the company makes $10 million in recycling by doing things like sweeping dust containing zinc and copper from its plant and selling it to Brazil, and collecting chipped paint and selling it to steel mills. They also reuse Styrofoam and boxes used to deliver parts.
“It's the greenest plant in the United States of America,” Peltier said. “I'm a tree hugger and that's what this company is … It's something sustainable.”
He bought the building at 3200 SSW Loop 323 from Auto Advantage and has been using it as a used car dealership before Subaru called him, he said. Remodeling of the 9,000-square-foot dealership is well under way, and he plans to start construction any day on a new 5,000-square-foot service shop on the four-acre property.
Peltier said they are replacing all lights with LED lights, which will use one-tenth of the electricity. If it works at the new store, he plans to implement it at all of his dealerships. Peltier is also using low toxic paint and the dealership will have three different waiting rooms – a quiet room, one with a television and one looking out over a garden.
Outside, Peltier is planting an educational, edible garden where school children can come to learn. Local farmers are helping with planning the project. Peltier also plans to build a cistern to catch water from the roof to water the garden and will use crushed granite for landscaping so not as much water or fertilizers are needed.
Subaru drivers are also the most Internet savvy group of customers and keep their cars like a Rolex watch, passing them down to their children instead of trading them in, Peltier said. “It's like a cult following,” he said. “Once you buy one, you fit into this family.”
Subaru makes all-wheel drive vehicles for safety and has the highest resale value, he said. Every car is five-star rated, crash tested and has “crazy good” gas mileage, he added.
The Tyler dealership will be split about 50-50 selling new Subaru and used vehicles and plans to open in April, Peltier said.
Mike Terry will be the general sales manager and oversee daily operations. He worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a lieutenant for 16 years before he started working as a salesman for Peltier in February 2010. After nine months, he was promoted to sales manager and six months later, to general sales manager. Terry, 41, and his wife of 12 years, Alison, have one son and five daughters.
Subaru will have 25 employees, bringing Peltier's employees at all four dealerships to 250, Peltier said.
In 2007, 17 million cars were sold in the United States, followed by 8.9 million in 2009 and 14.5 million sold last year. He expects 15.3 million vehicles to be sold this year, he said.
Peltier believes there has been a systemic change in the business. The average car is 11 years old – the oldest in the history of the business, he said. People are keeping their cars longer, but when they buy something, they are buying what they really want. He said that has made the price of used cars higher because not a lot of people are trading them.