PHOENIX - Ford Motor Co. is working with six universities to put minority college freshmen on an education track that could lead to owning a dealership.
The program is still in the planning stages.
It would consist of a series of courses designed to provide aspiring minority dealers with an auto retailing background as well as an MBA.
The general education portion of the program would be available at Howard University in Washington and Tus-kegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., while Kettering University in Flint, Mich., and Northwood University in Midland, Mich., would offer auto retailing courses. Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., and Northwestern University in Chicago would offer advanced business studies.
Students might have to travel from one school to another to take some courses, while other courses might be Internet-based.
Training would include three or four summer internships and would take about five years to complete.
Ford hopes to launch the program in fall of 2001.
George Frame, director of dealer development at Ford, said he believes the retail auto industry lacks minorities because young minorities do not understand the opportunities available.
Frame said Ford has 379 minority dealers - 260 blacks, 84 Hispanics, 20 Asians and 15 Native Americans - and plans to add about 16 more by year end. Ford has more than 4,700 dealers.
Frame also said Ford has changed its summer job program to provide 12-week summer internships in dealerships for minority college students interested in becoming entrepreneurs.
Interns were selected by the deans of business at their respective schools. All had competed their sophomore year and had a grade-point average of 3.0 or better.
Nathan Conyers, owner of Conyers Riverside Ford in Detroit, said he has participated in Ford's minority internship program for about 10 years. Last summer he had three interns.
He said the internship program gives some students their first inside view of a multimillion-dollar business.
'Everybody can't be an entrepreneur. Everybody is not comfortable with the level of risk that is involved in running a business,' said Conyers, who plans to open a new Jaguar store in Novi, Mich., in spring of 2001.
'But the more you spread the opportunity, the more people you'll get, the more superstars you'll have.'