Luxury Auto Dealer Passes Away

Bob Ross was the first African American Mercedes dealer

Robert Paul Ross, a mainstay on the BE AUTO DEALER 100 list and the first African American Mercedes Benz franchise, died in July in Centerville, Ohio. He was 62.

As the first black to break into the Mercedes-Benz exclusive luxury franchise group, Ross, the owner of Bob Ross Buick, Mercedes and GMC Inc. in Centerville, Ohio, was considered a trailblazer by many peers within the auto industry. Ross’ dealership debuted at No. 70 on the BE 100 list in 1976 with $3.4 million in sales. Two decades later, it had climbed to No. 20 with a sales revenue of $62 million. Ross’ success was propelled by the 1979 purchase of Davis Buick and Mercedes-Benz in Centerville, Ohio. In 1994, he was named to the Mercedes National Dealer Council.

Ross’ widow, Norma, says the business will survive. “We had a good year and no cash flow problem. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to continue.”

Mrs. Ross has long handled the company’s public relations efforts. Son Robert, a 1992 graduate of the National Automobile Dealer Association’s dealer academy program, has sold and purchased his father’s automobiles through his company, 21st Century Auto Leasing. A daughter, Jenell, is the customer relations manager for the dealership.

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