Sun Motor Cars president Klare Sunderland dies at age 78

By - Last modified: January 8, 2013 at 10:33 AM

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Klare S. Sunderland, president of Silver Spring Township-based Sun Motor Cars Inc., was remembered Tuesday by local business leaders as 'a great businessman' who was deeply involved in the local community.

Sunderland died Sunday. He was 78.

"My dad fought the good fight. My sisters and I have spent many hours with him over the last month as he fought to recover from illness," Daniel Sunderland, his son and the company's vice president, said in an email. "We feel blessed that he passed comfortably in peace and is now onto a new stage with the lord. …

"Many of you have touched my dad throughout the years. Dad's Sun Motor Cars' legacy will continue to grow and prosper thanks to our wonderful clients."

He could not be reached this morning for further comment.

With its Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and Audi brands, Sun Motor Cars helped further build out a vibrant Carlisle Pike corridor in Cumberland County.

In 2008 and 2009, Sun invested heavily in new dealership spaces along the Carlisle Pike — about 170,000 square feet between sales spaces for its brands and a collision center.

"When I got the news, I was very deeply saddened by it," said Ron Ferris, CEO of Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, which owns several dealerships along the Carlisle Pike. "My thoughts and prayers go out to Dan, his sisters and the family."

Ferris was extremely complimentary of Klare Sunderland and the organization he built.

"He was what American entrepreneurship is all about. He worked from the bottom up. He took risks," Ferris said. "He was a great businessman. Klare and his organization raised the bar in what competition is. They take care of their customers and do what you are supposed to do."

While attending college, Sunderland sold cars for David Sausman at Sausman Chevrolet in Thompsontown, according to his obituary. After graduation in 1956, he continued to sell cars and was school bus manager for Sausman Chevrolet in Steelton and later in Lemoyne, and eventually became the owner of the dealership that became Sunderland Chevrolet.

At the time of his death, he had six dealerships and was president of Orland Park Mercedes-Benz and BMW in Orland Park, Ill. He also was engaged in numerous other business and charitable endeavors.

"My concern is, will there be guys like Klare Sunderland?" Ferris asked, referring to future business leaders. "He is what made America what it is. I wish all competitors were the class of Klare."

Pennsylvania Automotive Association President and CEO John Devlin said in a statement: "We were saddened by the loss of Klare Sunderland. Dealers play such a vital role in their communities and Klare exemplified this. He was well-known to be an extremely good businessman."

He added: "He was also active in giving back to and doing good throughout the community, donating to various charities and sponsoring events. He was an asset to the dealer community and reflected well on the industry. He will be greatly missed."

"I didn't personally know Mr. Sunderland, but I know he was a big supporter of the chamber," said George Book Jr., president and CEO of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, which recognized Sunderland in 2009 with its Business Achievement Award. Book took over the top post at the chamber in November.

The achievement award goes to somebody who has respect for the community, is involved in the community and is integral in making sure jobs are coming to the area, Book said.

"I know he was always about giving back to the community," Book added. "I know his son, Dan, will continue to carry on his legacy."

Last year, the chamber hosted its first-ever "Taste of the Chamber" event at Sun Motor Cars' Mercedes-Benz dealership, an event to showcase members and help nonprofit organizations. A second event will be held this year at the company's BMW dealership, Book said.

In 2008, Sun Motor Cars posted revenue of $211.5 million, according to Business Journal records. That was followed by $194.6 million in 2009 and $124.7 million in 2010.

In 2011, Sun posted growth of 123.7 percent over 2010. The luxury automotive dealer finished the year with $278.9 million.

Public viewings at Malpezzi Funeral Home in Upper Allen Township will be 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Jan. 13. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Jan. 14 at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Monroe Township.

Sun Motor Cars will close all dealerships at 3 p.m. Jan. 14 in honor of Klare's life.

Click here to read Sunderland's full obituary.

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