Local car dealer Jose Arredondo, an immigrant who worked his way up to own several local dealerships, has died from stab wounds he suffered while in Baja California, his pastor confirmed Tuesday. He was 60 years old.
Well known for his positive outlook and generosity, Arredondo came to the United States from a rural community in the Mexican state of Michoacan at the age of 11, not knowing how to speak English.
But after demonstrating an impressive work ethic while washing cars in Los Angeles, Arredondo was promoted to become a salesman, launching him into a successful career in the car sales business.
The Rev. James Ranger, lead pastor at New Life Church, where Arredondo worshipped for two decades, called him "the real deal," a man of deep faith who donated brand-new cars to the church for fundraising purposes over 20 years.
"He was tough as nails but he had a beautiful heart," Ranger said.
Arredondo had long been dogged by rumors that he and his company, Family Motors, were somehow mixed up in crime. No charges were ever brought, however, and Ranger, who remembers having long conversations with Arredondo about the hushed allegations, said he strongly believes the rumors were started by people jealous of his professional success.
"I never saw, ever saw anything that would make me think otherwise," he said.
Several people in the car-sales business locally said an email went out across the Bakersfield New Car Dealers Association early Tuesday informing members of Arredondo's death.
John Pitre, chief operations officer at Motor City Buick GMC and Motor City Lexus of Bakersfield, called Arredondo's death a "tragic event." He said Arredondo contributed in many ways to the car dealers association.
"He was a valuable member of our community and we're certainly going to miss him," Pitre said. "We're certainly in mourning and we'll say a prayer for him."
Arredondo bought and sold a number of local dealerships over the years. In 1999 alone he said he earned $1.35 million. His Family Motors brand owned lots in Bakersfield and Delano.
He was for many an inspirational figure, often sharing his faith and encouraging people to work hard to improve their lives. Besides donating to charities, Arredondo would speak to inmates and drug addicts about changing their ways.
A golfer and jogger, Arredondo sometimes wore a gold, eight-lettered pin spelling the word "attitude."
"I'm always thinking, 'How can I impact somebody's attitude,'" he told The Californian in 2006.
His own positive attitude was a defining aspect of his business practices.
In 2007, near the start of the Great Recession, he decided to move forward with a $5 million business investment despite indications car sales were beginning to slow.
Although the move may have been ill-founded in retrospect, as the entire industry suffered a years-long sales drought, Arredondo told The Californian at the time that he was bullish on Bakersfield's growing population and had grown confident about the car dealership business.
"I'm very optimistic about life and business," he said. "We cannot be depressed about things beyond our control."
Arredondo is survived by his wife, Laura; daughter Mariana and son Samuel; and siblings.
Members of his family could not be reached for comment Tuesday and there was no word on funeral arrangements.