For five years he talked with various Toyota dealerships with the aim of becoming sole owner. In 2008 he called Brian Evans, vice president of mergers and acquisitions for Lithia, the Medford, Ore., public dealership group. Evans was not interested.
But Parpia says Evans later came to the negotiating table after the economy soured and Lithia decided to reduce its holdings.
"I had to convince [Evans] that this would be an easy deal," Parpia says. "I was a good dealer. I had been selling Toyotas for 28 years. They [Lithia] knew my performance."
Still, Lithia was giving up one of Toyota's top stores in northern California. The Vacaville store was well situated -- about 30 minutes away from both San Francisco and Sacramento.
Parpia took over the dealership, Toyota Vacaville & Scion Vacaville, on March 10, 2009, with the industry in turmoil. But Toyota was still hanging tough. He did well during the cash-for-clunkers incentive, selling 159 new and 45 used vehicles in August.
"It was our biggest month" since he took over, he says. "We hit 200 units, considerably more than Lithia was doing."
But in February, bombarded daily with news of Toyota's safety problems, the store sold 50 new and 40 used vehicles.
Parpia says years of listening to the customer will pull him through Toyota's tough times.
"My passion is selling cars," he said.
He is at the dealership seven days a week. His business card includes telephone numbers where he can be reached 24 hours a day.
This month Parpia was awarded a 2009 Toyota President's Award after a year in business -- one of 17 winners among 59 Toyota dealers in northern California.
"He has done a good job representing Toyota during this difficult time," says Erika Ridolfi, market representation manager for Toyota's northern California region.
Parpia is just thankful to be in business with a dealership of his own.
He says: "It is amazing that a kid from Kenya could ever become the owner of a Toyota dealership in California."