Maserati could benefit from Chrysler minority dealer program, exec says



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MIAMI -- A Chrysler Group minority dealer development program can help diversify Maserati’s dealer network, the head of both companies’ dealer networks said Thursday.

Peter Grady, vice president of dealer development at Chrysler and CEO of Maserati North America, said Maserati is in “learning mode” as it expands its dealer network.

Fiat S.p.A., expected to formally complete its merger with Chrysler Aug. 1, is the parent of Maserati and Alfa Romeo.

Since April 2011, Chrysler and a group of minority dealers have trained 10 dealers and expect to start a new class late this year, Grady said.

“Part of what I’ve been doing for the last seven months at Maserati is working on expanding the dealer network and working on developing the dealers we are putting in the business,” Grady said during a panel discussion at the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers annual membership meeting here.

“We’re trying to replicate some of the things we’ve done at Chrysler Group.”

According to NAMAD, 6.4 percent of Chrysler dealerships were operated by minorities at the end of 2013.

Two years ago Chrysler started a program through which minority dealers sponsor dealer candidates by helping the candidates get training inside their dealerships and giving them time off for outside training. The first class of five started in April 2011 and ended in August 2013. A second class of five started shortly thereafter and ended in April 2014. A third class of “five or six” candidates is to start in December.

Once candidates complete the program, sponsoring dealers invest in stores with their candidates.

Candidates for the program must be employed as general managers in successful stores, says Eugene Mitchell, Chrysler senior manager of dealer development operations.

Also on the panel was Ludwig Willisch, CEO of BMW North America. He says BMW does not have a lot of open points but there are a few areas where it needs dealers, such as in the South. He points out that the brand has no dealers in Montana and that the population of Austin, Texas, where there is one BMW dealer, has grown 40 percent over the past 10 years.

Minorities operated 5.9 percent of BMW’s dealerships in 2013, NAMAD data indicate.

Willisch acknowledged the number of new points to be added over the next 12 months is “less than the fingers on one hand,” but urged minority candidates to apply.

He said: “There are some parts of the United States where we are underrepresented, believe it or not.”

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


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