It's long past time for Chrysler group CEO Dieter Zetsche or COO Wolfgang Bernhard to sit down with officials of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.
It's NAMAD's job to keep the pressure on manufacturers to give ethnic minorities a fair shake at owning dealerships. The association shouldn't have to threaten a boycott just to get the company's attention. A NAMAD boycott might result in a modicum of bad publicity for Chrysler, but it wouldn't prevent anybody from buying a Chrysler car that he or she wants to buy. Conversely, an effective boycott of Chrysler could hurt the many minority workers in Chrysler assembly plants.
Chrysler runs a good program: About 90 percent of its minority dealers are profitable, and most who graduate from Chrysler's program get good locations. But the program has not grown as it should.
Ethnic minorities own just 3.2 percent of the Chrysler group's 4,259 dealerships. That compares with 7.0 percent of the 5,164 Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealerships and 5.6 percent of the 7,166 General Motors dealerships. Ford's program still is rocky, and it won't disclose how many minority dealerships are profitable. But in the past few years, GM has added minority-owned dealerships and increased their profitability.
The percentages of minority-owned dealerships at Acura, Audi and Porsche are lower than Chrysler's. That is shameful.
International brands, particularly the luxury makes, represent the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. market. They, too, must accept responsibility and offer more opportunities to minority dealer candidates or face messy boycotts that could stain their upscale images.
NAMAD must make sure that Chrysler and other automakers increase the number of minority dealers, not just the number of rooftops owned by current dealers. Otherwise, NAMAD will be just another old-boys network.