Michele "Mike" Fiore SaltaMIKE SALTA, LEGENDARY CAR DEALER, ENTREPRENEUR AND PHILANTHROPIST, DIES AT 91 Michele "Mike" Fiore Salta, a visionary car dealer and entrepreneur who was one of the country's first "mega" car dealers and owned as many as 24 car dealerships simultaneously along the West Coast and Hawaii, died on July 8, 2014 at age 91, peacefully at his home in Indian Wells, Calif. Salta was brought into the world by midwife at the home of Giovanni and Marietta Saltalamacchia in Portland, Ore., on April 15, 1923. The youngest in a large family, Mike was known simply as "Babe" to his siblings. He later attributed much of his success in the business world to hard lessons learned alongside his father, who sold produce door-to-door from a horse-drawn cart. Salta graduated from high school in Portland and attended the University of Portland. During World War II, he enlisted in the Coast Guard and served as a Pharmacist Mate. With money saved upon discharge, coupled with sizable loan from his father, Salta purchased his first car, a Mercury, which he sold before he could even finish its first proper detailing. Encouraged by the sale, he bought two more cars and sold them, which ultimately led to opening two of his own used car lots while also managing the interest of a local dealer's expansion into Utah. In 1955, Salta opened his first new car dealership in Long Beach, Calif., and before long, Salta Pontiac was the largest Pontiac dealership west of the Mississippi, and one of the largest in the country, and became a landmark in the city. As Salta was looking to expand his ownership of new vehicle dealerships, he created his management company, M. F. Salta Company Inc., in 1959. This holding company also brought a comprehensive approach to his business by managing and supplying the supporting services needed to operate his dealerships. To that end, Salta created his own advertising agency, insurance agency, tax and audit department, and computer/IT department. Separate companies were also created to sell automobile service contracts, life insurance policies, financing and leasing options, and to purchase commercial real estate so he would own his dealership properties. Through five decades and the administrations of 10 U.S. presidents, Salta opened as many as 50 different franchise points, surviving during several economic downturns and a severe gas shortage by following his fundamentally sound business model. Always at the forefront and quick to recognize a new opportunity, Salta was among the first to introduce the Datsun/Nissan and Toyota brands to American buyers. An original "mega" dealer, Salta had franchises in California, Oregon, Hawaii and Arizona that 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 the aforementioned Pontiac, Nissan and Toyota. Although all of the dealerships have been sold-the last three in January 2004-the M. F. Salta Company and several of the real estate entities still exist today. Direct but fair, Salta's instinct for recognizing up-and-coming talent was integral to his success, and he was known as the car dealer who helped his loyal, hard-working employees achieve the dream that he himself had realized and built upon: an opportunity to own their own franchised dealership. In addition to earning his employees' dedication, Salta received numerous awards for his work in the automotive industry, including Time Magazine's Quality Dealer of 1975; the Chrysler/Plymouth Pacesetter Award in 1983-86; the Cadillac Master Dealer award in 1985 and Dewers Trophy in 1987; the Pontiac Masters award in 1985-87; the Toyota President's Award and Board of Governors for 1994-2001 and the Toyota Triple Crown Award in 2001; and the Lexus Elite Award from 1998-2001. In 1985, he was the No. 1 automotive retailer in the state of California. He also served on numerous automotive-related committees and associations, including as director and member of the executive committee of the Motor Car Dealers Association of Southern California; as a member of the General Motors President's Dealership Advisory Council; as a former director of the Long Beach Better Business Bureau and the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau; and as former president of the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau's Automobile Dealership Board. Salta strongly believed in giving back to his community, and was active in both civic affairs and philanthropic pursuits. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of St. Mary's Hospital in Long Beach, Calif., served on the Board of Directors of the Long Beach Community Chest, and was a member of the executive council of the Long Beach Boy Scouts of America. He contributed to numerous charitable causes, including the Beckstrand Cancer Center in Newport Beach, which honored him in 2013 for his long-time benefaction. Most recently, in April, Salta was lauded by Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for his extensive support over the past 36 years, during a dedication of a medical center building named in honor of he and his wife. Salta is survived by Jan, his loving wife of 34 years; four children, Carol Martin, Christine Basile, Steven Salta and Gabriel Farao-Salta; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A service will be held on July 16, 2014 at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Palm Desert, CA. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial contributions be given to the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA, or Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased