Once fired by his dealer dad, he's now fired up For the first time, the incoming chairmen of NADA and the American International Automobile Dealers Association are not only from the same state but also from the same region of that state. Meet friends and New Jersey neighbors Robert J. Maguire and Richard N. Kull.

BORDENTOWN, NJ - He's the first NADA chairman whose wife is an active dealer principal. He's the first whose father actually fired him for not putting in enough time at the dealership.

He's also the first with a $17 million annual wholesale parts business that surpasses revenues from new-vehicle sales.

And as Mr. Maguire is acutely aware, he's the first to preside in a year when NADA's respected president is retiring after 30 years with the association.

Those are the unusual elements he will bring to the NADA chairmanship in 2001. He's served as New Jersey's NADA director since 1987 and has been closely involved with issues involving franchised dealers, their factories and government bodies since becoming a dealer 25 years ago.

"This will be a transition year for NADA as we choose a new president to succeed Frank McCarthy," predicts Mr. Maguire.

Mr. McCarthy formally retires Dec. 31. Eight NADA directors, including Mr. Maguire, plan to name a successor before the NADA convention Feb. 3-6 in Las Vegas.

It also will be a busy year for Mr. Maguire as a south-central New Jersey dealer. His wife, Marcy, is principal of a Saturn dealership group that's expanding from two locations in Bordentown and Toms River, NJ, to a third one in Princeton, NJ.

She'll also be in charge of a Nissan store the couple has purchased in Hightstown, NJ, and a new Mitsubishi store planned near Princeton of Saturn.

Trained as a special education teacher, Mrs. Maguire met Mr. Maguire 20 years ago while she was working at a New York City school. She applied her "people skills" to the dealership.

He says, "That's the main reason we've risen from 25 to 100 employees and doubled our sales from a 300 planning potential to about 650 this year at the Chevy store alone."

Mr. Maguire's office suite is filled with photos, awards and memorabilia, including the 1967 letter in which his father, William J. Maguire, sacked the young salesman for failing to put in six 12-hour days a week at his struggling Chevrolet dealership in Jamaica, NY, near JFK Airport.

The ouster was rescinded, recalls Mr. Maguire, "but I got very disillusioned with the car business. My dad was a rough, tough boss and there had to be a barbed-wire fence around the dealership because of so many crime problems. I had finished a four-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps and thought that unless I could find a decent dealership, I might try another business...

"But I had some money saved up and wanted to try a dealership of my own. I landed this point in Bordentown in 1976 and it's been a wonderful place to live in a grow a business in."

Still active in Marine Corps Reserve, Mr. Maguire shares a military background with the incoming chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, Richard N. Kull, a fellow New Jersey dealer based in nearby Marlton. Mr. Kull served seven years in the Coast Guard.

"Dick and I are good friends and he's an active NADA member," says Mr. Maguire. "Besides, we've helped the New Jersey Coalition of Automobile Retailers (CAR) in its franchise-law amendment campaigns, which included one of the first factory-ownership bans among the states."

Besides the state association, based in the capital of Trenton 10 miles from Maguire Chevrolet, New Jersey is headquarters in upstate Hackensack for the Ford Dealers Alliance, founded by the late Edward J. Mullane, whose Ford point is in Bergenfield, NJ. He died at age 89 Oct. 7. Mr. Mullane had praised Mr. Maguire for his independent spirit and dedication to dealer causes.

As Mr. Maguire leads a visitor around his buildings, he points with pride to the 85,000-sq.-ft. structure for his parts operation.

"We ship Chevy and Saturn parts to dealerships and independent garages on a 24-hour seven-day basis from Maine to Delaware," says Mr. Maguire. "Only Lustine Chevrolet down in Maryland is bigger on the Eastern Seaboard, and they lead all dealers in parts distribution."

Mr. Maguire, 61, is a 1966 graduate of the Chevrolet dealer sons school.

The Maguires have a son, Michael, 17, who is entering the Lawrenceville Academy in Lawrenceville, NJ.

"I don't know if Mike will want to enter the family business, but we'll let him decide," says his dad. Mr. Maguire mentions one more thing during the interview at one of his dealerships:

"Tell them that in my inaugural address at Vegas, I'll make it loud and clear that this country needs franchised dealers - big, small and in-between. Those that think otherwise should think again."