Executives from several auto companies who attended the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers' annual conference said they are working hard to create more diverse retail networks.
About 400 dealers and factory representatives turned out for the four-day meeting in Birmingham, Ala., last week.
Nissan North America Inc. told the dealer group it has made significant progress on a 1998 promise to increase its minority dealer count 25 percent by 2002.
Jed Connelly, general manager of Nissan Division, said that since the announcement the company has increased its minority dealer count by 17 percent.
He said Nissan has letters of commitment from three other minority dealers, two black and one Hispanic.
Craig Liggett, director of sales operations for Infiniti, said both the Nissan and Infiniti divisions recruited candidates at last year's NAMAD conference who are now dealers.
He said the company hopes to secure three or four more letters of commitment from minority dealer candidates this year.
Connelly and Liggett said the conference offers an excellent way to meet potential dealers.
'Two people (who are now dealers) came to us directly through our presence here,' Connelly said.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. announced the appointment of three minority dealers and one female dealer, for a total of 14 minority- and woman-owned Toyota and Lexus dealerships added in the past year.
Toyota Motor Sales has improved its female and minority representation by 22 percent over the past four years, the company said.
CHANGES AT GM
General Motors used the conference to outline several improvements in its minority dealer program:
The program's general director, Eric Peterson, will report directly to GM's top management.
Implementation teams have been created to support minority dealers, especially during the launch of new dealerships.
The candidate selection, training and review process has been revised to ensure that candidates are prepared to manage and own an auto dealership.
GM said the changes were based on recommendations made in an independent review of the program completed last year.
MORE AUTOMAKER REPS
NAMAD Executive Director Sheila Vaden-Williams said the dealer group was pleased to welcome representatives of several auto companies for the first time: Subaru of America Inc., Volkswagen of America Inc., Audi of America Inc., Porsche Cars North America Inc. and Volvo Cars of North America Inc.