Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. has suspended its year-old scholarship and training program for minority college students.
Mitsubishi spokesman Kim Custer said the Mitsubishi Young Entrepreneurs Program has been suspended for one year so it can include more than dealership management.
Jim Currie, Young Entrepreneurs project director, said about half the students in the program are not necessarily interested in retail automotive careers. Also, when the program was announced in November 1997, Mitsubishi thought it would be a majority owner in some stores at which the students would train. Because of Mitsubishi's financial crisis in Asia, that did not happen, Custer said.
He said the revised program will include vehicle manufacturing, distribution and marketing as well as retail.
The program was to consist of a summer institute, followed by dealer mentoring and fellowships. The 20 juniors who completed the institute were to receive $5,000 scholarships and $2,500 stipends for their senior year.
Of that group, five were to get fellowships upon graduation. The fellows were to train at the National Automobile Dealers Association Dealer Candidate Academy in Washington, D.C., and work at a Mitsubishi dealership. Mitsubishi had agreed to pay for the academy tuition, which is about $6,000, and related expenses.
Currie said the 20 students received the $5,000 scholarships and $2,500 stipends. The fellowship portion has been suspended.
Sheila Vaden-Williams, executive director of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, said the suspension makes the group question Mitsubishi's commitment to diversity. She said the group also is concerned that a separate agreement hammered out by Mitsubishi, the National Organization for Women and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson in January 1997 has eroded.
That agreement involved Mitsubishi's plan to increase the percentage of stores owned by minorities and women to 15 percent, up from 9.5 percent now. The plan included training at NADA's academy and assistance in acquiring dealerships.
Vaden-Williams said many of those initiatives have not been carried out, and noted that one of the executives, Clyde Elba, is no longer with the company. Elba joined Mitsubishi as vice president in February 1997. He was terminated in October 1998 as part of the company's restructuring.