DETROIT -- Even as the Detroit 3's financial troubles deepen, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is calling on the companies to renew their support of their minority suppliers and dealers.
Those businesses generally are small and have limited cash reserves, Jackson said at a press conference here Thursday, Sept. 14. They are at a disadvantage because they cannot compete with companies that accumulated wealth over generations, he said.
Amid the spending cuts and factory closings announced by General Motors and Ford Motor Co., Jackson said he fears the domestic auto industry is turning its back on minority suppliers and dealers.
Dave Bing, CEO of the Bing Group in Detroit, a prominent minority supplier, said at the event that the Detroit 3 must recommit to their minority business partners.
Detroit 3 leaders "say all of the right things and I think they mean it," Bing said. "The problem seems to permeate as it goes down into the organization. It's about getting the best price, in some cases, as opposed to the best value.
"We believe we bring value to the process. We may not always have the lowest price. When you look at that model, we think we ought to have a fair opportunity to play in the game. That has not been the case for a long time."
The Rainbow/PUSH coalition, a civil rights group Jackson founded, holds an annual automotive symposium. It attracts minority suppliers and dealers and representatives of major auto and supplier companies. This year's symposium is scheduled Sept. 28 and 29 in Detroit.
Bing said members of the National Association of Black Automotive Suppliers plan to ask car companies what their plans are for minority participation, how many minority suppliers they do business with and whether they plan to increase their spending with those companies.
The association had 54 member companies "about four or five years" ago, Bing said. That number has dwindled to 29, he added.
A.V. Fleming, executive director of the Ford Motor Minority Dealers Association, said the group now has about 150 members, down more than 100 over the past five years.
Fleming estimated that about 40 percent of the association's members are losing money. He said he fears its ranks could get even thinner.
"If this trend continues, we might be down to 100," Fleming said. "We're not trying to grow our numbers. We're trying to stabilize our numbers. We feel that we've hit the floor. The trend is definitely going in the wrong direction.''
You may e-mail Arlena Sawyers at [email protected]