Iconic car dealer Bob Rohrman, known for comical television commercials and named suburban dealerships, died peacefully from natural causes Tuesday evening with his family, company sources said.
Born the ninth out of 11 children in a log cabin in Lafayette, Indiana, Rohrman, 87, has built a car group from scratch on a used car lot in his hometown since 1963. Today, the Automotive Group has 27 new car dealerships in Indiana, suburbs of Chicago, and Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rohrman started his first new car dealership with Toyota in 1970, and under his guidance, the Bob Rohrman Auto Group has grown into one of the largest private dealer groups in North America.
Bob Rohrman distributors in the suburbs are located in Schaumburg, Palatine, Arlington Heights, Gurnee, and Oak Brook.
In the process, Rohrman gained fame throughout the Midwest for his wacky advertisements. It was emphasized by the actor’s deep baritone, “Bob ROHR-man!”
On Halloween, he dressed up as a cloak vampire, saying “spooky savings”. For July’s Christmas sale, he dressed up as Santa and wore the “low price” price.
He spoofed one of the biggest movie franchises in a “Car Wars” ad and told Princess Leia, “I’m Bob Roman. I’m here to save you at a high price!”
Some say, “When it comes to cars, there’s only one Bob ROHR.
When he was at the dealership people asked him to take a picture with him. When attending a sporting event or enjoying the night, it is rare to end the evening without saying “Bob ROHR-man!”
A more serious aspect of his TV commercial persona was found in philanthropy and charitable donations in the community where his agency is located.
He recently donated funds for the construction of a state-of-the-art tennis complex for the Performing Arts Center at Lafayette Central Catholic High School, Lafayette Jefferson Public High School, and a lead gift to name Rohrman Field in Purdue. University’s Ross-Aid Stadium.
“The Rohrman family cannot thank all of the employees and friends who have worked alongside them over the years and look forward to continuing his legacy through the Bob Rohrman Auto Group,” said a statement released by the company. “His family will most remember him for his endless love and loyalty, his generous heart for charity, his passionate spirit, infectious laughter and his love for Purdue football.”
In 2016, Rohrman explained the secret to success in an interview with Indiana Business Journal.
“If you’re going to sell anything, especially a car, you have to fall in love with your customers because the price isn’t cheap,” he said. “Because if you fall in love with a customer, they will love you and will not go anywhere else.”
Funeral arrangements were still pending on Wednesday, but services are expected to be held in Lafayette next week.
• Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this story.