A group of black former and current dealers have accused General Motors of racial discrimination and have organized to challenge the automaker's practices.
The group, called the National Association in Support of Automotive Retailers, held a June 29 press conference in Montgomery, Ala., to call attention to what it believes is a GM effort to reduce the number of black dealers. Roger Bell, a former GM dealer and founder of the association, said the group hopes to get an audience with GM President Jack Smith.
Eric Peterson, general director of minority dealer development at GM, denied there is an effort to keep black people from owning dealerships.
'I have never talked to Roger Bell,' said Peterson. 'I have no idea on what basis they are making these statements.'
Bell said that from December 1988 to April 1999, the number of GM Native American dealers increased 66 percent; Hispanic dealers increased 92 percent; and Asian dealers increased 117 percent. The number of GM black dealers declined 1 percent during the same period, he said.
Bell said his data are from Inform, a quarterly publication put out by GM dealer development, which tracks minority dealer numbers.
Of GM's 294 minority dealers, 115 are black.
'GM is saying that since 1992, the (minority dealer) program is up 50 percent,' said Bell. 'They took 1992 as their starting point. From 1988 to 1992, the number of black dealers dropped 32 percent.'
Bell declined to say how many people are in the group, but published reports said there are about 12 members.
Samuel Crayton, a black former dealer candidate, said he attended the press conference as an observer on behalf of himself and seven other black candidates GM dismissed from its program in November.
He said the former candidates feel they have been treated unfairly by GM but are not making assertions of racism. Crayton and the other former candidates are to meet with Washington attorney Weldon Latham on Thursday, July 8, to see if their differences with GM can be mediated. If so, GM plans to meet with the former candidates by mid-July, said Peterson.
GM hired Latham to evaluate its minority dealer program last year.