Bob Rohrman, who built his namesake Midwestern dealership group from a single used-car lot in Lafayette, Ind., died Sept. 1 at 87.
Named one of 50 Automotive News Visionary Dealers in 2009, Rohrman started his franchise operation with a Toyota store he said he opened after responding to a magazine ad. Today, Bob Rohrman Auto Group operates 25 dealerships in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Rohrman told Automotive News in 2010 that he opened the Toyota store after seeing an ad featuring a yellow Toyota Corona. He had been looking for a new-car franchise and heard that Toyotas were selling well in California.
Rohrman said he called the 800 number in the ad, and a month later he was selling Toyotas.
Bob Rohrman Auto Group ranks No. 46 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups in the U.S., retailing 19,455 new vehicles and 18,619 used vehicles in 2019, with revenue of $1.2 billion.
Heinrich Baumann, head of the German exhaust and thermal supplier Eberspaecher Gruppe, died of a sudden cardiac event on Sept. 18 while hiking in the mountains in southern Bavaria. He was 54.
Baumann was an electrical engineer by education and a management consultant with Ernst & Young in Stuttgart. But he was also the great-great-grandson of Eberspaecher’s founder. He joined the family business in 2004, succeeding his father, Günter Baumann, as managing partner.
During his tenure, Baumann doubled the company’s employment to 10,000 at 80 global locations. Eberspaecher posted a 7.7 percent sales increase in 2019 to $5.56 billion.
Rick Case, a record-breaking Florida car dealer and an early booster for several import brands in the U.S. market, died Sept. 21 of complications from cancer. He was 77.
The founder and CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group opened some of the first U.S. dealerships for brands such as Toyota, Honda, Acura, Hyundai and Kia. Sales at many of his stores set brand records — a gleeful career-long goal for the retailer.
He opened his first dealership, a used-car store called Moxie Motors, at age 19 in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. In 1966, he opened one Toyota’s first U.S. dealerships. By age 29, he had amassed a chain of motorcycle stores.
Case and his wife, Rita, moved from Akron to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1985. They opened one of the country’s first Hyundai dealerships. Their Acura dealership was that brand’s highest-volume store several years in a row.
Case’s empire, now in its 59th year, has grown to include 16 dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Ohio, and more than 1,300 employees. The group is ranked No. 35 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with 2019 retail new-vehicle sales of 22,168.
Don Rosen, who assembled a group of Philadelphia automobile dealerships, died Oct. 18 from complications from endocarditis. He was 81.
Rosen began with a Cadillac store in Philadelphia in 1979, a dealership he once told the local press that he acquired after being treated indifferently by its salesmen.
He provided the voice in advertising for his expanding dealership group, making him a well-known name in the area, and he also became a recognized philanthropist during his career.
David Braley, owner of the Canadian engine components and castings supplier Orlick Industries, died Oct. 26 after being hospitalized with an undisclosed illness for several months. He was 79.
Braley began his business by buying a small Ontario machine company in 1969 and targeting the auto industry for growth. Other acquisitions included a tool and die shop and a castings operation. Orlick now counts Honda Motor Co. as its biggest customer.
Along the way, the Montreal native also acquired a number of professional sports teams, including several Canadian Football League teams and two soccer teams. He also was a member of the Canadian Senate, from 2010 to 2013.
Cheri Fleming, an Acura dealer in Valencia, Calif., died on Nov. 16 following a brief illness. She was 69.
Originally a tanning salon owner, Fleming married tanning equipment salesman Don Fleming, according to local press coverage, and the couple later entered auto retailing together.
In 1997, the Flemings acquired Valencia Acura, Acura’s lowest-ranked store in sales and customer satisfaction nationally. With Cheri Fleming serving as dealer principal, the Flemings turned the store into one of Acura’s top-performing dealerships nationally, and in 2006 she was a finalist in the American International Automobile Dealers Association Dealer of the Year award.
Art Schwartz, a former labor negotiator for General Motors, died Dec. 12 after a monthlong battle with COVID-19. He was 72.
Schwartz started his career teaching labor relations at the University of Michigan before joining GM in 1985. He was general director of GM’s labor relations staff where he negotiated with the UAW, IUE-CWA and United Steelworkers of America. He also was head of labor planning and responsible for designing and administering all of the automaker’s special attrition programs.
He played a critical role in union negotiations during GM’s 2009 federal rescue. He retired from the company in 2010.