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decided: June 16, 1986.


Original and Appellate Jurisdiction from the Order of the State Board of Vehicle Manufacturers, Dealers and Salespersons, in case of In The Matter of Garnet Ford, Inc., File No. 84-MV-1048.


James A. Mollica, Jr., Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, with him, Michael J. Robinson, for petitioner.

Jerome T. Foerster, Deputy Attorney General, with him, Michele Monaghan Nicholas, for respondent.

John R. Luke, for intervenor.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 189]

Addressing our original jurisdiction under section 761(c) of the Judicial Code,*fn1 Buick Motor Division of the General Motors Corporation (Buick) requests in its Petition for Review and in its Motion for Summary Relief that this court issue a writ of prohibition enjoining the State Board of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Dealers and Salespersons from further administratively enjoining or interfering with Buick's relocation of John B. Naretto Buick, Inc., (Naretto) and from further proceeding with the protest filed by Hamilton Buick

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 190]

Pontiac Mazda, Inc., (Hamilton) because the board lacks subject matter jurisdiction to do so.

Alternatively, if this court concludes that the board does possess jurisdiction to adjudicate Buick's relocation of Naretto, Buick requests that we grant its motion for summary relief and issue a writ of mandamus ordering the board to implement the deemed decision that good cause does not exist for refusing to permit Buick to relocate Naretto, because, as mandated by the Board of Vehicles Act,*fn2 the board failed to issue its decision within 120 days of Hamilton's filing of its protest to Naretto's relocation. On November 13, 1984, the board held a hearing limited to the question of the board's subject matter jurisdiction over the protest which Hamilton had filed with the board on July 10, 1984.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

With respect to its jurisdictional position, Buick contends that it formed its intention to relocate Naretto before January 1, 1984, the effective date of the Act, and accordingly, board action here would constitute an unauthorized retroactive application of the Act.

"Section 1926 of the Statutory Construction Act of 1972*fn3 mandates that '[n]o statute shall be construed to be retroactive unless clearly and manifestly so intended by the General Assembly.' Absent clear language to the contrary, statutes are to be construed to operate prospectively only." Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Employment Security v. Pennsylvania Engineering Corp., 54 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 376, 379-80, 421 A.2d 521, 523 (1980) (citations omitted). The Board of Vehicles Act contains no language which

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 191]

    suggests that the General Assembly intended retroactive application.*fn4

Section 18(a) of the Act, 63 P.S. § 818.18(a), provides:

§ 818.18. Limitations on establishing or relocating dealers

(a) Additional or relocation of new vehicle dealers. -- In the event that a manufacturer seeks to enter into a franchise establishing an additional new vehicle dealer or relocating an existing new vehicle dealer within or into a relevant market area where the same line-make is then represented, the manufacturer shall in writing first notify the board and each new vehicle dealer in such line-make in the relevant area of the intention to establish an additional dealer or to relocate an existing dealer within or into that market area. Within 20 days after the end of any appeal procedure provided by the manufacturer, any such new vehicle dealer may file with the board a protest to the establishing or relocating of the new vehicle dealer. When such a protest is filed, the board shall inform the manufacturer that a timely protest has been filed, and that the manufacturer shall not establish or relocate the proposed new vehicle dealer until the board has

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 192]

    held a hearing, nor thereafter, if the board has determined that there is good cause for not permitting the addition or relocation of such new vehicle dealer.

This court has not previously addressed the board's jurisdiction to resolve a dealer relocation dispute. However, in In the Matter of Garnet Ford, Inc., File No. 84-MV-1048, issued November 23, 1984, the board concluded that the manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, had formed an intent to establish an additional new vehicle dealer within the relevant market area of the objectors before January 1, 1984. The board therefore concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the merits of the ...

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