Robert R. Rafferty, 87, founder and owner of Rafferty Subaru, whose catchy jingle, "It's all about you, at Rafferty Subaru!" is familiar to TV and radio audiences in the Philadelphia area, died Tuesday, April 3, of complications from a stroke at his home in Newtown Square.
Mr. Rafferty opened the car dealership at 4700 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, in 1977. It grew from a small operation selling two to three new cars a month, to one with 105 employees.
As car buyers began researching purchases on the internet, the franchise changed to fit the times. Customers now chat online with a sales associate and register their car-buying preferences before going to the showroom.
The dealership is perhaps best known for its jingle: "It's all about you, at Rafferty Subaru." The jingle helped attract business, Mr. Rafferty's family said. Over time, there were various versions, including "It's All about New."
Mr. Rafferty ran the franchise until July 2015 when he stepped back from daily operations due to health reasons, and his two sons, Kevin M. Rafferty and Robert S. Rafferty, took over. Mr. Rafferty remained available for consultation, his family said. "He was there till the end," said his daughter, Dinae Norris.
When he went into the hospital for treatment, the nurses would bring a smile to his face by singing the business jingle, his daughter said.
In July 2016, the dealership obtained permission from the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors to expand its 24,000-square-foot building by 19,000 square feet, and to add parking spaces, service bays, and a car wash for detailing. Construction began in September 2017 and is due for completion this September. Mr. Rafferty was aware of the expansion project and supported it, his family said,
His daughter described Mr. Rafferty as "a quiet man, but he had this presence and strength about him, with a warm personality as well."
"He worked, and he worked, and he worked," she said.
"It's a different generation now," said his son Robert S. Rafferty. "There are not many risk takers [on his] level anymore."
Born in Scranton, Mr. Rafferty moved with his parents to Southwest Philadelphia, and graduated from John Bartram High School in 1948. From 1950 to 1954, during and after the Korean War, he served as a boom operator in the Air Force. His duties included refueling military airplanes midflight, his family said.
After his military service, Mr. Rafferty was employed by Daley Ford, a former car dealership in Philadelphia. He worked as a salesman and then moved up to leasing manager of the Haisfield Ford Main Line Fleets, of Philadelphia. The business rented vehicles to customers across the United States and in Canada.
It was at Haisfield that he earned his business chops. "He was totally self-made," his son said.
In 1974, Mr. Rafferty formed a franchise relationship with Subaru of America, according to state incorporation papers. In August 1977, he opened Rafferty Pontiac, GMC Truck, and Subaru, combining the three franchises. In 2000, he gambled on the future success of Subaru over GMC and Pontiac, and went "all Subaru," his son said.
"He was 100 percent accurate," his son said.
Mr. Rafferty married Dorothy M. Wood in 1957. The two moved to Springfield, then Media, and finally to Newtown Square where they had lived for the past 25 years.
Mr. Rafferty enjoyed spending time in Avalon, N.J., with family and friends. He was an avid golfer at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, where he was a member for more than 35 years.
In addition to his wife, daughter, and two sons, Mr. Rafferty is survived by eight grandchildren.
A viewing from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Monday, April 9, at the St. Mary Magdalen Church, 2400 N. Providence Rd., Media, will be followed by a funeral Mass at 11. Interment is in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Springfield.