Somersworth car dealership changes hands

From left, the new principals of Tri-City Subaru: Mike Bickford, David Rosenberg, Rick Bickford and Scott Silverman.

Fifty years ago, Rene Plante morphed his used car dealership in Somersworth into one of New England’s first Dodge dealerships with models most baby boomers will remember, albeit with faded memories: the Dodge Monaco, Polara or Custom 880.

Now, the dealership, Tri-City Subaru and Tri-City Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, has been sold to a Massachusetts man, David Rosenberg, and two partners, Rick and Mike Bickford.

Rosenberg, whose father, Ira “Jack” Rosenberg, founder of the Ira Motor Group, was considered one of the most prominent car dealers in the country, purchased the dealership for an undisclosed price.

When the senior Rosenberg died two years ago in March at the age of 82, his obituary read in part, “He had built a family-run regional empire in partnership with his son David that now spans three generations.”

Rosenberg’s “signature broadcast jingle” and 1980s and ’90s TV ads “helped position Ira Motor Group as one of the most iconic, personality-driven automotive dealership brands in New England,” the obituary read.

Nancy Phillips, whose Exeter firm assists auto dealer purchases and sales all over the country, represented sellers Kenneth, Roger and Steve Plante. Their father, Rene, who died in the 1990s, was one of the first Subaru dealers to be appointed under the Subaru of New England distributorship.

“The two dealerships continued under Rene’s sons, Kenneth, Roger and Steve Plante for their entire working careers,” Phillips said in a statement. She added “The brothers plan to retire to pursue other interests.”

Her brokerage firm, Nancy Phillips Associates, calls David Rosenberg, “New England’s automotive virtuoso.” Rosenberg formerly operated the Ira Motor Group, The New England Platform of Group 1, and Prime Automotive Group. He no longer operates those Massachusetts entities, and has focused his attention north.

In a statement, Rosenberg called the acquisition of the dealerships “exceptional opportunities.”

“These dealerships are a great fit for my automotive group. Ken Plante and the Plante family have operated a stellar business for many years and I look forward to continuing growing the company and serving the Somersworth community,” he said.

Reached at the dealership last Friday, Jordan Plante, Rene’s 39-year-old grandson, who joined the company in 2005, spoke of his grandfather, saying “He always put his employees first. There was very little, almost no turnover.”

Plante said he would stay to help manage the dealership.

The local Chamber of Commerce honored Tri City Subaru several years ago with its “Business of the Year” award. According to his grandson, Rene was heavily involved in the community, and for a time was president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association.

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