Irma Elder, first woman to own a Ford dealership in Detroit area, dies at 84

DETROIT -- Irma Elder, CEO of Elder Automotive Group and the first woman to own a Ford dealership in the Detroit area, died Tuesday. She was 84.

Elder was born in Xicoténcatl, Mexico, and came to the United States in 1946, "not able to speak a word of English," she wrote in a biography sent to Automotive News in 2000.

After growing up in Miami, she moved to Michigan with her husband James Elder in 1963. She later took over the Troy Ford dealership he acquired in 1967, after his death in 1983, and built it into one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the country.

"There is a feeling that the automotive industry is a man's business," she said in an in-depth interview with Automotive News in 2008.

"I'm not saying everybody does it, but there is some patronizing if you are a woman. But that is a fact of life. I do not allow it to get to me. It is tough for everybody.

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