Rallye Motor Company, the premiere luxury automotive group on Long Island and one of the nation’s most prestigious car dealerships, has been celebrating its 65th year in business. Though many dealerships have been bought out, Rallye remains a family-owned, private company.
The late Peter Terian built the company up from scratch with a passion for European cars and with hard work and dedication to his employees, says his wife Juliana Curran Terian, the president and chief executive officer at the automobile group that includes Rallye BMW, Rallye Mercedes Benz, Rallye Acura and Rallye Lexus. Over the years Rallye has served as a franchisee for Maserati, Porsche, Peugeot, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and other manufacturers.
“We really take pride in that over the 65 years that Rallye has been here, there’s been consolidation and big takeovers in the car industry, but ours has been able to maintain the values that Peter had started out with. One of the things that he did is he always put the employees first,” she says.
Peter Terian emigrated from Russia by way of France at the age of 8 with his mother, not speaking a word of English. When he was 10, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he worked odd jobs, such as an usher in theaters, as he commuted from the West Side of Manhattan to high school at Brooklyn Tech. His mother passed away when he was 18.
A year later, he teamed up with his uncle, who had been a salesman at a Ford dealership, to open a service garage that specialized in European cars, such as Maserati, that were just looking to come into America and gain a foothold.
“It was 1958 and they were European and they were in the right place at the right time,” his wife recounts, adding how her husband had an affinity for cars and enjoyed racing cars.
“He and his uncle went home one weekend and with this garage said, ‘Well, we want to name it something.’ And then they came back Monday and they both [independently] had come up with the name Rallye with the ‘e’ because they were both European. So they’re like, ‘Well, I guess that’s the name,’” his wife says.
Terian had an entrepreneurial spirit and innate business savvy, despite never having gone to college.
The original garage was on a dirt lot in Sea Cliff, though they eventually moved to another building in the hamlet. They soon took on a business partner, George Moss, and together, they acquired their first franchise with Maserati. Rallye soon outgrew its Sea Cliff facility and moved to Glen Cove.
From there, they opened up the first New York Auto Show. “There wasn’t an auto show in New York City before that,” Terian says.
In 1987, Rallye moved to a custom-designed facility for Mercedes-Benz BMW and Rolls-Royce in Roslyn.
Two years later, Rallye was one of 70 dealerships from over 1,700 franchise applications in the United States to be selected to open a Lexus dealership. The Glen Cove facility was then renovated to represent Lexus, opening in October of 1989. Ever since, it has been honored with the “Elite of Lexus” Award for more consecutive years than any other Lexus dealership in New York.
By 1994, Rallye acquired the Acura franchise and more recently, Rallye has since grown to take on the Sprinter and Metris commercial van franchises under the Mercedes-Benz brand.
To what did Terian attribute his business success?
“He told me when his mother died when he was 18 and he watched her struggle for eight years, he said, ‘I never wanted to be poor. I wanted to make a success. I wanted her to be proud of me and I didn’t want anybody to have to go through that,” his wife says.
“I think he pushed and pushed and pushed. He had a vision at the onset and he had strong ideas. When he was with the uncle and George Moss, they shared their ideas and the tenacity and the vision.”
He always put employees first because he had great respect for them. There are now about 500, some of whom have been with the company for as many as 40 years.
“They were his family. He was 61 when we had Olivia,” she said of their only daughter. “It was his employees and his company that were his family,” Terian says. “I think that’s the big reason why Rallye was a success when I met him in 1987.”
She described the company as employee-driven. “We did the logo, we did the company mission, vision and values and the brand — and it was all from our employees deciding what it was. Empowerment and kindness are two of the seven values that we have and they’re straight from Peter,” she says.
Peter Terian died in 2002 at the age of 65 after a courageous, seven-year battle with prostate cancer.
Juliana Terian had a small architecture and interior design business, and hadn’t been involved in the company at all. In 2000, when her husband bought out his partner, she started to become involved in the business. He had already been sick for five years at that point and so they had talked about the future of the business. “He said, ‘If you want to sell it, you can sell it. If you wanna run it, you can run it. He said, ‘You can do it. If you want to do it, you’ll be good at it.’”
She dived into the business and earned a certificate from the National Automotive Dealership Academy, learning how to run a dealership. She also learned from watching how her husband put the employees first, and she continued that legacy.
While she had to pivot into an entirely new industry, she did bring her knowledge of real estate and architecture acumen to the retail automotive business. “It was October that Peter died. In November, BMW came to us and said, ‘You have to take BMW off your property,’ because we just had one store and BMW wanted its own separate location. The Northern Boulevard store had Rolls-Royce, Mercedes and BMW — all three of them together.”
Terian had to find land and develop it in order to find a new home for Rallye’s BMW dealership. “It was something that I could focus on and make sure that this store would be as elegant and important and employee-focused as the one that the BMW employees were leaving,” she remembers.
She oversaw the design and construction of an environmentally friendly 92,000-square-foot dealership in Westbury for Rallye BMW, which opened in 2007 and even recently won an Excellence in Sustainability award from BMW.
“Now, 20-some years later, we’re building a new store for Lexus,” she explains. The new Rallye Lexus headquarters will be located on a four-acre property in Jericho that she is developing right now.
“That’ll be another exciting thing I’ve been able to use my architecture in,” she says, noting how important it is to create a modern space that both employees and customers feel comfortable in.
“I was able to maintain so much of the company’s brand strength that I saw when I first met Peter and his Rallye,” she says.
This article appeared on the front cover of Behind The Hedges Powered by the Long Island Press on the December 2023 issue. Read the full issue here.