After taking heat from minority dealers and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson for not having enough minority dealers, American Honda Motor Co. Inc. has hired a veteran dealer development manager to help diversify its retail network.
Marc Burt, 43, has been hired as Honda's manager of business development in charge of identifying opportunities for minorities and improving diversity within the Honda and Acura dealer organizations.
Before joining Honda Feb. 1, Burt was investment manager for dealer development at Ford Motor Co. He was with Ford 21 years.
Burt reports to Earl Campbell, Honda senior manager of market representation.
Dick Colliver, Honda executive vice president, said Honda is making a major commitment to add minority dealers by placing them in open points. He would not say when, where or how many dealerships Honda will add.
'We haven't had the opportunity to select candidates and place them in dealerships,' he said.
'Now, we're starting to look at several open points and can control who the candidates will be.'
Currently 32 of Honda's and Acura's 1,200 dealers are minorities and 63 are women.
Burt said Honda has many efforts in the works to shore up its minority dealer count, including a training program for potential minority dealer candidates. But he said his first order of business is to help Honda craft an investment program to enable candidates who are long on experience and drive but short on cash, to have a shot at a Honda store.
'Right now, the only way we can (issue) letters of intent is with private capital, and certainly there are minority dealers out there who are capable of doing deals with private capital,' Burt said. 'But if that's all you have to offer, it limits the number of minorities that can do a deal.'
Honda has come under fire from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers and Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition because those groups were unhappy with Honda's track record for including minorities in its dealership and supplier ranks.
Burt said he met informally with NAMAD President Don Tinsley and Executive Director Sheila Vaden-Williams during his second week on the job.
Said Burt: 'It was mostly to let them know who I am, that I'm available and want to work with them.'