After years of being criticized for having too few black dealers, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. announced a new diversity program and the appointment of four African-American dealers.
The program is designed to recruit, train, place and provide financial assistance to minority and female Toyota and Lexus dealers.
Saturn Corp. and many import car companies have come under fire from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson for not making dealerships available to minorities.
Including the new appointments, Toyota has 1,194 dealers, including 24 women, 15 African Americans, 11 Hispanics, 12 Asians and seven Native Americans. Lexus has 176 dealers including three women, two Asians and one African American.
As part of the program, minority and women dealers will be appointed to the Toyota and Lexus dealer councils. The councils will monitor the program.
Robert Wade, Toyota corporate communications manager, said the company's TEAM Diversity Program has created opportunities for minorities and women within the corporation since the mid-to-late 1980s, but Toyota realized that more needed to be done within its dealer ranks.
Wade said Toyota decided not to attach numbers to the program because it is more important to have the right person in the right location than to meet quotas.
The new African-American Toyota and Lexus dealers are:
Edward Fitzpatrick of Valley Lexus in Modesto, Calif.
Dorian Boyland of Redding Toyota in Redding, Calif.
Ray Dixon of Family Toyota in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Tony Merritt of Superstition Toyota in Mesa, Ariz. Merritt is a former Toyota regional sales general manager.
Family Toyota is a new point; the others are existing points.