A scion finds his dream job at Toyota store

The first vehicle delivered at Greg Miller Toyota in Lemon Grove, Calif., is a 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser. From left are sales manager Tyler Wardle, dealer Greg Miller, Land Cruiser buyer Corby Dall and sales manager Jason Hawks. Wardle and Hawks are Greg Miller’s sons-in-law.

Dealer Greg Miller remembers getting frustrated when he was CEO of Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. He would view monthly dealership reports and see that a store was underperforming.

“I would say, “I want to go run that store and fix it,'” Miller told Automotive News. “But I couldn’t because I already had a job.”

Miller, 49, finally can run his own store. Last week, he bought the former Bob Baker Toyota in Lemon Grove, Calif., near San Diego. The dealership, renamed Greg Miller Toyota, will operate as part of Greg Miller Automotive San Diego, independent of Larry H. Miller.

Greg Miller’s father and mother, Larry and Gail Miller, founded the Larry H. Miller Group, of Sandy, Utah, which grew to include dealerships, real-estate investments and the Utah Jazz professional basketball team. Larry H. Miller Dealerships ranks No. 10 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with new retail sales of 62,476 vehicles in 2015.

Nearly 7-year CEO

Greg Miller was named CEO of the group on July 16, 2008, but resigned in March 2015 amid an executive restructuring. His father died in 2009 at age 64.

Miller will stay actively involved on the Larry H. Miller Group board, but he intends to run day-to-day operations of his Toyota store. That, too, will be a family affair. Miller, a father of six, has two sons-in-law working as sales managers for him.

Last week, Miller met with the store’s 94 employees. He went over his managerial style and a new sales model: “Power of One,” a no-haggle, one-price setup in which one salesperson takes a customer through the transaction.

He said staff members are OK with it. Under his flat-fee pay plan, a salesperson will earn an average of $600 per vehicle sold regardless of the price, Miller said. He believes this system will boost sales and customer satisfaction and lower employee turnover. Still, he is realistic.

“It’s not for everyone. I don’t expect it to be trouble-free,” Miller said. “But I’ve interviewed two of the longest-tenured people in the store and they both left my office with a smile.”

Epiphany

Last year, after resigning from Larry H. Miller, Miller was going through his personal papers and journals when he found at least three references he had made to wanting to own a dealership. The first was 18 years ago.

Miller had an epiphany: “I’m not getting any younger and my desire to have my own store and operate it every day wasn’t diminishing as I got older.”

So last summer, he began to pursue the idea. He looked at “a couple of opportunities” before meeting with Bob Baker in December and hammering out a deal in two weeks.

Under Baker, the store sold about 2,600 new and used vehicles a year. Miller wants to grow annual sales to 2,400 new and 1,200 used. He also plans to hire more technicians and salespeople as he grows.

Will he buy more stores? “I don’t know if I have a good answer for you,” he replied. First, he said, he wants to fix the “significantly underperforming” San Diego store.

“I have the opportunity to make sure my store doesn’t have any mistakes,” Miller said. “I’m going to have fun just running this one store.”

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