Urban Wheel Awards celebrate diversity with Oscar style

Arlena Sawyers covers remarketing for Automotive News
The cars will be the stars when the Detroit auto show gets underway Monday, but tonight diversity in the auto industry is being celebrated at the Annual Urban Wheel Awards at the Sound Board theater tucked inside the Motor City Casino Hotel.

The Urban Wheel Awards ceremony - now in its 15th year - is sponsored by Decisive Media Inc., publisher of auto and other publications for the multicultural consumer market.

Auto companies, dealers, suppliers and others are honored with Oscar-like statues for their recognition of diversity as a driver of the auto industry and for incorporating multicultural initiatives into business plans.

Among those seen on the “green” carpet tonight were Jim Colon, vice president of product communications for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.; Marc Burt, senior manager of American Honda's office of inclusion and diversity; and Eric Peterson, General Motors Co.'s vice president of diversity and director of dealer affairs.

Tony Brown, purchasing chief at Ford Motor Co., accepted the award for Executive of the Year, from two presenters -- his boss, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Lifetime Achievement Awards were handed out to Rodney O'Neal, CEO of Delphi; Frank Venegas, CEO of Ideal Group, Inc. and Andra Rush, CEO of Rush Group LLC.

The Supplier of the Year award went home with Gary Gonzalez, CEO of Gonzalez Design Group.

In a surprise move, all three finalists for Dealer of the Year were named winners. They are Jay Rivchin, owner of Dadeland Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, in Miami; Fernando Varela, owner All Star Ford in Palestine, Texas, and Jessie Armstead, owner of Hamilton Honda in Hamilton, N.J.