If you’ve bought a car in Sacramento in the past half-century, chances are you’ve shopped at a dealership owned by the Niello family.
Today, the patriarch of the Niello automotive family passed away. Richard Niello Sr., who brought the company to Sacramento after it was founded in San Francisco, died Saturday at his home. He was 10 days away from his 100th birthday.
“We were all hoping he would hit 100,” said his son Rick Niello, president of The Niello Co. His father had no specific health issues, but “he just got exhausted,” he said. he declares. Niello’s brother Roger announced their father’s passing on Twitter.
Today, the company is among the largest companies based in the Sacramento area, with $733 million in revenue last year, Niello said. Its holdings include 12 dealerships selling nine brands: Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Acura, Mini, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo.
The company’s history began with Rick Niello’s grandfather, Louis Niello, the son of Italian immigrants who worked as a driver and got a car repair job at a Packard dealership in San Francisco.
In 1921, he was able to buy the concession. His son Richard, after serving as an ensign in the Navy during World War II, went to work for his father at the dealership, which added the Pierce-Arrow line of automobiles. Eventually, the son replaced the father as head of the business.
But Richard’s fortunes changed dramatically in the mid-1950s. Packard and Pierce-Arrow went out of business and Niello had to find another line of cars to sell. It was then that he met Wes Lasher, who would become a friend for life. The two men formed a partnership and opened a Volkswagen dealership on J Street in Sacramento.
The two men separated amicably in the late 1950s, when Richard Niello bought a Volkswagen dealership on Fulton Avenue. He added the Porsche, Audi, BMW and Acura brands before retiring in the mid-1990s and handing over the management of the company to his son Rick.
“It was a good race,” said Rick Niello.
Rick’s brother, Roger, a former Assemblyman running for a state Senate seat, serves as the company’s secretary. His other brother David is vice-president of the company.