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Queens auto dealer, political advocate Tom Nemet, dies

Tom Nemet, a Queens auto dealer and political advocate, died of cancer July 4 at the age of 76.

"He was the most passionate auto dealer in the country," said Scott Perlstein, Nemet Nissan general manager. "He made that evident by getting involved in federal politics to further the industry that was bigger than himself."

Nemet, of Jamaica, Queens, founded Auto Dealers and Drivers for Free Trade in the 1980s and was chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association in 1984.

He lobbied for free trade and worked to thwart proposed legislation and regulations that would have put an import tax on vehicles.

"He was the key person to the prosperity of the imported auto industry," said Perlstein.

The second-generation dealer expanded Nemet Motors, founded in 1916, into The Nemet Auto Group in Jamaica, Queens, with Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Volvo stores. His group served more than 11,000 customers a year, but his fervor to grow the business never diminished, Perlstein said.

"Thirty years ago, Tom was selling 1,000 cars a month," said Sharen McAvoy, Nemet's executive assistant. "They had nowhere near those numbers when he started. He used to say he started at age 4."

Nemet mastered the art of politics and built a reputation as a businessman, yet his greatest passion was his family, Perlstein said.

Survivors include his wife, Mary, sons Kyle, Todd and Ross and daughter Robyn, as well as five grandchildren. A funeral was held July 7, at Schwartz Brothers-Jeffer Memorial Chapel in Forest Hills.

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