MIKE SALTA / 1932 – 2014Merchant’s legacy endures at isle car dealerships
By Erika Engle / firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Salta was more than just a name on a Pontiac dealership in Hawaii. He was an influential businessman whose effect on the local automotive industry lives on in people who run dealerships around the islands.
"He was respected by so many people, it's an amazing legacy that he leaves behind," said Alan Uyeoka, who went to work for Mike Salta Pontiac on Nimitz Highway in 1976, when he was 19 years old and eventually became a general manager. "Knowing him has been a real honor," Uyeoka said.
Salta, born Michele "Mike" Fiore Saltalamacchia in Portland, Ore., in 1923, died Tuesday at his home in Indian Wells, Calif., at age 91.
"He lived a good, full life," said Bob Johnson, vice president of M.F. Salta Co. Inc., based in California.
His auto franchises, numbering as many as 50 at one point, were sprinkled through California, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii, and included Cadillac, Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Acura, Jeep/Eagle, Buick, Isuzu, GMC Truck, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi and Lexus, in addition to Pontiac.
In the 1960s Salta expanded his auto dealership empire to Hawaii where for years familiar announcers, including George "Granny Goose" Groves, would do commercials for Mike Salta Pontiac.
Honda Windward owner and President Morrie Stoebner worked for Salta for 30 years, he said, joining the Salta company in 1960, when he, too, was 19 years old. "I ran the Salta store on Nimitz from 1974 to 1990," Stoebner said. Stoebner was inspired by Salta to stay in the business and eventually open his own dealership.
Salta "was a great, terrific man with great morals. He always wanted to do business the right way, and family was really important to him," said Uyeoka. Salta helped "countless general managers buy their stores and achieve greatness in life."
Salta attended the University of Portland, and during World War II enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard as a pharmacist mate.
Between his savings and a loan from his father, he bought his first car, a Mercury, which he quickly sold. He used the proceeds to buy two more cars, which he sold, eventually leading him to open two used car lots. Salta opened his first new car dealership in Long Beach, Calif., in 1955 and built it into the largest Pontiac dealership in the country.
Under the holding company, he established other entities to provide services supporting the dealerships, including an advertising agency, insurance agency, tax and audit department and computer department.
Salta was among the early dealership owners to bring the Datsun (now Nissan) and Toyota makes to American customers.
Salta bought a condominium in Kahala in the 1980s and later sold it for a new place in Waikiki where he and his wife, Jan, would regularly vacation, Johnson said. "She still plans on keeping that condo in Hawaii," he said.
In addition to his widow, Salta is survived by children Carol Martin, Christine Basile, Steven Salta and Gabriel Farao-Salta; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Services will be July 16 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert, and the family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the church or to the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased