rom Ed Davis, Detroit's first Black car dealership owner, to the late "superstar" Mel Farr, metro Detroit has been a hub for entrepreneurs of color in car sales. So it's fitting that the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers is bringing the country's top minority dealers to town this auto-show season.
Its first-ever Diversity Volume Leadership Awards is set for Jan. 10, before the North American International Auto Show opens its doors. The invite-only event recognizes several auto brands for their commitment to minority car buyers-28 percent of all U.S. new-vehicle registrations, NAMAD notes. Its goal is clear: Not only ensure an increasingly diverse pool of car buyers are treated fairly, but also increase opportunities for people of color interested in car sales. Of roughly 18,000 U.S. dealers, only 1,100 are minority-owned, NAMAD president Damon Lester tells BLAC.
"It's something that we need to try our best to correct," Lester says. "When you look at this business in general, minority dealers will hire more people of color than non-minority dealers and have more opportunities than non-minority dealers.
"That diversity needs to be a part of everyone's business." The playing field has not been equal; otherwise, the numbers would be higher. "From a historical point, we weren't really allowed to become dealers until post civil rights," Lester adds.
The Detroit automakers-Ford, GM and Chrysler (now Fiat Chrysler)-helped with a minority-dealer development program created in the late 1970s, Lester says.
The field allows owners to build generational wealth and long-term investment, Lester says. But that's also proven a hindrance: Because there's so much established wealth in the business, access to start-up capital can be difficult.
"It limits the number of individuals who can enter the industry. But we have to be able to embrace diversity and make it part of our business."