GM touts dealer diversity gains

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NEW ORLEANS -- General Motors awarded dealerships to 21 minorities in 2013 and is aiming for 25 more this year, said Eric Peterson, GM's U.S. vice president of diversity dealer relations.

GM had 208 minority-owned dealerships at year end, a net gain of 10 in 2013, he said, and the minority-owned stores are more profitable than GM's dealer network as a whole. "We're very proud of that," Peterson said on the sidelines of the National Automobile Dealers Association convention here. "It goes to the quality of dealers and candidates we're putting in."

He would not disclose profitability data.

Peterson said even though the company fell short of its stretch goal of adding 25 minority-owned dealerships in 2013, he is pleased with the progress. He said it was a team effort that started with Mark Reuss, now GM's global product chief, and was picked up by Alan Batey, when he took over from Reuss as GM's North America president.

Also instrumental were GM's field organization and its Motors Holdings, a lending arm that invests in GM stores with purchasing dealers.

Of GM's minority-owned dealerships at year end, Hispanics owned 106, African Americans owned 40, Asians owned 36 and Native Americans owned 26.

Reuss was GM North American president when the company set the goal last summer during the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers annual conference.

"We've got some good momentum going and great support from our field organization and our leadership," Peterson said. "We're happy with 21."

The people awarded dealerships were a combination of existing dealers who added stores and candidates trained by GM. Peterson said GM is identifying and meeting with former minority dealers who lost stores during the economic downturn to see if there are opportunities to get them back into dealerships.

Damon Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, said he is pleased with GM's progress.

"It also has to start at the top," he said. "We were always urging GM to make a commitment, honor what you say and come up with a plan. They did what they said they were going to do."

You can reach Arlena Sawyers at asawyers@crain.com.


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