Ira Rosenberg, longtime New England dealer, dies at 82

When Rosenberg was a teenager, he quit high school and ran away to join the Navy, he told Automotive News in 2013.

After several jobs as a salesman — hawking cars, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners and then cars again — the self-described poor kid from Malden, Mass., opened a used-car lot in Salem, Mass., in 1967. That used-car lot was a steppingstone for Rosenberg to launch what became the five-store Ira Motor Group.

Throughout his career, Rosenberg was committed to the business. As a salesman, even when the dealership was closed on Sundays, Rosenberg handed out business cards to passers-by near the lot, David Rosenberg said in January.

In 1975, Rosenberg bought a Toyota dealership in Danvers, Mass., which became the first of the stores that made up Ira Motor Group. In 2000, Ira and David Rosenberg sold the company to Group 1, of Houston, for a multimillion dollar price tag. The stores became a major building block for the public dealership group, and David Rosenberg ran Group 1’s platform in New England until 2006.

Ira Rosenberg first tried retirement in 2000, after selling Ira Motor Group to Group 1. But it didn’t stick. “I can’t handle it anymore,” a bored Rosenberg told his wife. “Let me go back to work or give me a lobotomy.”

So in 2004, he set his sights on “this cute little store” in Maine, Rosenberg said in 2013.

“I walked in, and I smelled potential,” Rosenberg said of the Toyota store in Saco. “It stank of potential.”