The National Automobile Dealers Association plans a networking breakfast for female dealers at its convention next year. First, though, it must determine who they are.
NADA has scheduled the event for Jan. 29, 2005, at its annual meeting in New Orleans. Anna Arnone, NADA's executive director of dealership operations, says the group is identifying female dealers to invite.
About 900 women own U.S. new-car dealerships, Arnone estimates. NADA doesn't have a precise figure because it didn't collect dealer data by gender until about two years ago, she says. As of Jan 1, there were 22,199 new-vehicle dealerships in the United States, according to an Automotive News census.
Arnone says NADA is counting on automakers to help it find female dealers. General Motors is working closely with NADA on the project, she says.
The dealer group plans to invite top factory executives to attend and address the breakfast.
The event will provide an opportunity for female dealers to meet and share ideas, Arnone says.
"We do workshops for (female) dealers, and those have been very successful," she says. "But they lack an opportunity for some networking and socialization."
GM created its Women's Retail Initiatives program in 2001 to support female dealers and increase their numbers. Women own 245 GM-brand dealerships, 55 more stores than when the program began. GM had 7,462 dealerships on Jan. 1, according to the Automotive News census.
Barbara Lupient calls the NADA breakfast a good idea. She co-owns Lupient Automotive Group in Minneapolis with her husband, James Lupient.
"We're still such a minority in the industry, and it is fun to network," she says. "You go into a group (of female dealers) and they're all passionate about the industry."
The Lupients' company has 37 franchises at 15 Minnesota dealerships, Barbara Lupient says. It ranks 85th on the Automotive News list of the top 100 dealership groups in the United States, based on 2003 new-vehicle retail sales. Lupient also co-chairs the General Motors Women's Dealer Advisory Council.
Lupient says she attended several events for female dealers at this year's NADA convention in Las Vegas and met different women at each one. She says a single event would help.