More women own dealerships
High costs, competition, shrinking dealer body are barriers, though
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So in 1997, MacMillan began looking for an auto dealership to buy. After five years and three near-misses, she acquired her piece of the American dream: Sierra Toyota in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
She offers this advice to women who aspire to own dealerships: "Be persistent, and save all of your money."
MacMillan is among a small but growing number of women who own and manage dealerships. They cite high costs and tough competition for stores. They also describe an industry that is getting friendlier but still is not friendly enough to women.
Up from 2000
Last year, women were named in franchise agreements as owners of 1,362 U.S. dealerships, according to CNW Marketing/Research Inc. of Bandon, Ore. That is up from 1,147 in 2000 and 680 in 1995, CNW says. That designation represents principal responsibility for a dealership, says CNW President Art Spinella.
By contrast, CNW reports, men owned 18,426 dealerships in 2004. That was down from 18,949 in 2000 and 23,676 in 1995.
In 2004, women held nearly one of every eight jobs in franchised dealerships, according to CNW. One of every five dealership finance and insurance managers is a woman. So is one of every 25 or so sales employees.
Obstacles to female dealers remain high. As the Big 3 have lost market share, the carmakers have sought to consolidate their retail networks into fewer, larger dealerships. Import automakers generally are not expanding their dealership bases as they gain market share.
Big dealership groups, both public and private, are driving up prices for stores. Minority entrepreneurs are clamoring for more dealerships.
MacMillan would not say what she paid for her dealership. But she says cost was less of a stumbling block than identifying an appropriate store.
"We looked for five years," she says. "I would find something, and at the last minute the deal would fall apart."
Despite such challenges, the retail industry is reaching out to talented women.
In 2001, General Motors created its Women's Retail Initiatives program to recruit, train and mentor female dealers. Of GM's 7,514 U.S. dealerships, women own 267 stores, GM says.
Pat Roberts, director of GM's program for female dealers, says her biggest challenge is finding stores for women to own. There is no shortage of qualified applicants, she says.
'Look for buy-sells'
"We don't go out and create new opportunities," Roberts says. "We look for buy-sells."
Women are majority owners of 57 of the Chrysler group's 3,950 U.S. dealerships, says DaimlerChrysler spokes-
man Kevin McCormick. He says the company does not have a program that cultivates female dealers.
"Certainly, the numbers aren't where we want them to be," McCormick says.
Women hold a controlling interest in 43 of the 1,422 dealerships affiliated with Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Those totals include Toyota, Lexus and Scion stores.
Ford Motor Co. would not disclose how many majority owners of its U.S. dealerships are women. Women have an ownership interest in 314 of its 3,787 Ford Division dealerships and 16 of its 636 Lincoln Mercury dealerships, the company says.
Marcy Maguire, co-CEO and owner of the Maguire Automotive Group in Bordentown, N.J., offers a map to women who want to be dealers. They can earn business degrees, gain experience working in dealerships and apply to the National Automobile Dealers Association's dealer academy program, Maguire says.
Would-be female dealers also need to be persistent and proactive, she adds.
"They need to knock on the door and buy a deal," Maguire says. "Our industry is shrinking. Manufacturers aren't necessarily assigning new points."
In the driver's seat
|Here’s where women stand in terms of ownership of U.S. auto dealerships.|
|Stores in which||Stores in which||Brand’s||% of stores in which|
|women own stake||women own||total U.S.||women have any|
|of 51% or more||any stake||dealerships||ownership stake|
|Ford, Lincoln Mercury||NA||330||4,423||7.50%|
|GM (including Saab)||267||NA||7,514||–|
|Honda & Acura||54||NA||1,278||–|
|Nissan & Infiniti||NA||37||1,200||3.10%|
|Toyota, Lexus & Scion||43||221||1,422||15.50%|
|Volkswagen & Audi||NA||24||877||2.70%|
|NA = not available. (List includes brands with 100 or more U.S. dealerships.)|
You can reach Arlena Sawyers at email@example.com.