Car dealer says he's being pushed out Major Motors fights termination notice

Joseph Tacchetti has seen everything during his 44 years in the car business.

The 76-year-old Columbia resident started selling Studebakers. And then Plymouths. He now sells Nissans at Major Motors, the profitable Ellicott City dealership he has operated since 1969.


Now, instead of striving to sell cars, Mr. Tacchetti is fighting to keep his dealership.

He says Nissan Motor Corp. is trying to shut him down. Company officials have told him that they are unhappy with his dealership's performance and that he is too old to run the business, he says.


Mr. Tacchetti contends that Nissan wants him to open a "glass palace" in Columbia -- a financial risk he says he doesn't want to take.

"We're not No. 1," Mr. Tacchetti said. "But we've always done a good job. . . . I thought it was very unfair to go to an old man and say we want you out."

Mr. Tacchetti, who has won many sales awards from Nissan, said the company wants to close Major Motors by Jan. 5, 1993.

The dealership employs 45 people.

Nissan officials declined to comment on the case because it involves litigation.

Nissan has filed a franchise termination notice with the state Motor Vehicle Administration's Division of Licensing and Consumer Services, which regulates car manufacturers and +V dealers in Maryland.

But Mr. Tacchetti is fighting Nissan. He has hired a lawyer, Jacob Stein of Washington, to represent him at a hearing before a state administrative law judge. No date has been set.

Mr. Tacchetti said the fight is a matter of protecting his honor and the interest of his family.


L "It would be a disgrace to be put out of business," he said.

Joseph Carroll, executive vice president of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association, said disputes like the one between Nissan and Major Motors are rare.

"There have been very few instances like this in the past," Mr. Carroll said.

Mr. Tacchetti is a member of the state dealers association, Mr. Carroll noted. "He's been a good member of our association with no real record of complaints or anything like that."

Michael Dana, a longtime friend of Mr. Tacchetti, said he believes many people in the county would be willing to support the car dealer, known for his philanthropic efforts.

Mr. Tacchetti is a regular contributor to the Italian-American Charities and the Sons of Italy, Mr. Dana said, adding that he would testify on Mr. Tacchetti's behalf or write letters in support of him.


"I consider him a vanishing breed of chivalrous gentlemen," said Mr. Dana of Ellicott City. "He's really quite a remarkable guy."

Mr. Tacchetti said he would like to eventually turn over Major Motors to his 32-year-old son, John, vice president at the dealership.

But Nissan won't permit him to make the transfer, saying thyounger Tacchetti is inexperienced at running a dealership, Mr. Tacchetti said.

Mr. Tacchetti said he has operated Major Motors conservatively -- never taking on more than he could handle and keeping the business in the black.

He said he has avoided large debts by refusing to seek subsidies from Nissan to expand the dealership or to order more vehicles than he could sell.

The dealer said he attempted to expand the dealership a few years ago by acquiring a neighboring property, but negotiations fell through when the owner increased the price from $250,000 to $1 million.


Major Motors operates on a 1.5-acre lot in the 8500 block of Baltimore National Pike.

Despite its small size, Major Motors has always had steadsales, Mr. Tacchetti said.

In the booming 1980s, his dealership sold as many as 90 new and used vehicles a month. Now, the dealership sells about 30 vehicles monthly.

In September, Major Motors sold 23 new cars and trucks, giving it a third-place finish among the 11 Nissan dealerships in the Baltimore region, according to sales figures provided by Mr. Tacchetti.

He notes that Major Motors has received many awards for its sales over the years.

Nissan has awarded the franchise with televisions, sofas and trips to places like Las Vegas and Europe.


Mr. Tacchetti said he believes Major Motors serves as an example of the latest trend in the car business: Small, productive dealerships that offer personal service and low operating expenses.

"The other guys envy our position," he said. "This isn't the time to give up."