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NJ luxury car dealer buys Estate Motors

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It took two tries, but a New Jersey luxury car dealer has acquired Estate Motors, a Mercedes-Benz franchise in Goldens Bridge that was on the verge of losing its dealership rights.

Tom Maoli, owner of Celebrity Motor Car Co., acquired Estate Motors and opened under his company’s name on March 21. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“The plan is to quadruple sales over the next two years,” Maoli said. “It’s such a prime market. It’s a wealth belt, a who’s who of America’s rich and famous.”

Maoli and Estate Motor’s owner, Charles Buonanno, had agreed to a sale last spring, but the deal collapsed in July while Buonanno was in the midst of a dispute with Mercedes-Benz USA.

Mercedes had been pressuring Estate Motors to upgrade its facilities to comport with the luxury brand’s image. Mercedes threatened to terminate the dealership agreement by November.

Buonanno struck first by suing in U.S. District Court in White Plains, claiming that Mercedes had violated federal and state laws designed to protect dealers from one-sided agreements.

Both sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on March 24.

“Clearly,” Maoli said, “it was undervalued and poorly run. It needs a new facility. And clearly it is one of the greatest locations in the tristate area. It’s a wealth belt, and over 100,000 cars a day pass by.”

When asked about the transaction, Buonanno’s wife, Nancy, said “We have no comment.”

Estate Motors was established in Mount Kisco in 1963 and moved to Goldens Bridge in 1970, on a cramped hillside on Route 22 and alongside Interstate 684.

Buonanno, who trained as an electrical engineer, became smitten with Mercedes on a 1962 business trip to Berlin. He paid $3,000 to have one shipped home and five years later he acquired a minority interest in Estate Motors. By 1974 he was majority owner.

Goldens Bridge will be Celebrity Motor Car’s first New York dealership. The company operates Alfa Romeo, BMW, Lexus and Maserati dealerships in northern New Jersey.

While Mercedes is new to the Celebrity stable, Maoli is quite familiar with the brand as a collector of classic cars since age 16.

He is a Mercedes aficionado. He owns a 1953 300S that was once owned by Errol Flynn and Reggie Jackson. He counts a 1962 300SL convertible and a 1955 gullwing sports car as favorites.

“They’re gorgeous cars,” he said. “Their design is incredible. Their performance is incredible. The quality is incredible. The history is amazing.”

Maoli plans to build a state-of-the-art dealership in Goldens Bridge. He expects to apply for town approvals in the next 60 days, to expand the sales building and renovate the separate service facility. A temporary “bubble” facility will be erected for sales and service during construction.

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