Irma Elder's story is one of the most impressive legacies in the automotive industry. When she was a young girl knowing little English, she moved from Xicotencatl, Mexico to Florida with her family in 1946. Irma graduated high school, and while taking classes at the University of Miami's night school, she also worked during the day. She met and married James Elder in 1963 and together they moved to Troy, Michigan. They opened Troy Ford in 1967 while Irma raised three children, Robert, Tony, and Stephanie.

In 1983, James sadly passed away, leaving the dealership to Irma. Many people expected Irma to sell the dealership, but she had been learning the automotive industry for about 20 years and was not about to give up. She had to overcome sexism and objections from all the people who doubted she could run the business, especially with having to take care of three children. 

Irma persevered and persuaded Ford's former president, and another Ford executive, that she could in fact run a successful dealership. She was the first woman-owned Ford dealership in Detroit, Michigan and with all the backlash she received, she kept pushing to prove everyone wrong. After a manager quit and took most of her sales personnel, she spent most of her time reading and studying the dealership business reports.

She decided to change the name of Troy Ford to Elder Ford and this is when she started to grow her empire and add franchises. This included Ford, Jaguar, Saab, Land Rover, Genesis, and more. By 2007, there were more than 11 franchises in Michigan and in Tampa, Florida. Together, they made over $450 million per year in revenue. During this time, Jaguar and Saab were the primary selling dealerships within the Elder brand.

In 2014, Irma left the dealership in the capable hands of her family, but her impact on the industry is remembered by influential figures like the CEO of GM and the Ford Executive Chairman. Currently, her family operates Elder Automotive Group and continues her philanthropic activities.