In 1994, Corley was approached by Dodge to open a dealership about 60 miles away in Gallup, New Mexico, which he purchased. His son Kaul, 45, became the general manager for the new site. They proceeded to open a Chrysler store in 1995 in Grants, now managed by daughter Faye Geter, 49; a Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and Volvo dealership in Albuquerque in 1995, managed by son Eddie Jr., 46; a Nissan franchise in Gallup in 1999, now managed by daughter Debora Money, 50; and they added a Chevrolet in Grants in 2006, managed by daughter Carolyn Mazone, 47. In 2007, the Corleys added a Hyundai store in Gallup, run by daughter Ruthie Stephens, 52, and another Ford dealership in Espanola, managed by a cousin, Hartford “Trey” Hudson.
Jim Myers, a retired branch manager with the Ford Motor Co. Dealer Development department, which conducted the program instrumental in working out the deal for Corley’s first dealership, says he had faith in Corley’s ability to be successful after their first meeting. “He learned the car business pretty quick,” Myers says. “But another advantage for him was that he was very well-known in town and well thought of. You can’t go to a restaurant in Grants with Corley without people coming up to the table to offer their greetings. Ed really knows his market.”
According to Charles Henson, president of the New Mexico Auto Dealer Association, these are very trying times in New Mexico for auto dealers. “Whether you’re selling domestics or imports, it’s difficult. The industry is under a lot of pressure with gas prices and pressure with lenders. Many of the rural areas are populated with low-income people who require loans to buy cars. So the lender crackdown is going to create challenges that will take all of the Corleys’ creativity to overcome.”
The Corleys are no strangers to challenge. They are skilled adapters, and once faced an enormous hurdle that could have easily thwarted their growth and their faith.
Sometime between 1999 and 2000, things began to fall apart, especially at their Ford location. Corley admits that the company was probably growing too fast and that he didn’t have the people in place at the time to watch cash flow, manage the service departments, and keep car turnover high on the lots. The company was also using its cash assets instead of loans to fund its growth. Profits dropped 50%, and the Corleys struggled to manage their dealerships — which numbered five back then. The company decided to hire an outside consultant to manage the finances, organize the company’s records, and generally help with the accounting.
Corley is now convinced that the person he hired to help get the company back into financial shape actually wanted to destroy the company. “He gave us all the wrong information. Things happened to my records, and once Ford Motor Co. stepped in to help, my accounting was unauditable. I couldn’t pay my bills and I was behind the eight ball with everyone, including the IRS.”