Barely a year after a Chevrolet and Saturn dealership opened in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, its black dealer-operator has left and General Motors is running the store.
When Chevrolet-Saturn of Harlem opened in February 2006, it and a Cadillac-Hummer dealership that shares its site were the first new-vehicle dealerships in 40 years in the largely minority community. GM touted the Chevrolet-Saturn dealership's minority ownership.
GM spokeswoman Susan Garontakos confirmed that dealer Otis Thornton quit in December. She said Thornton wanted to concentrate on a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership he owns in East Brunswick, N.J.
Thornton did not respond to requests for comment.
Garontakos said GM is "actively pursuing" candidates to operate the dealership. The operator likely will be a minority entrepreneur, she added.
GM announced in 2003 that it would use its minority dealer development program to open the Harlem store. GM has been criticized by the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers and its own minority dealers association for the dwindling number of minority-owned, and especially black-owned, GM dealerships.
GM says it had 350 minority-owned dealerships in 2006, about the same number as in 2001. But in the past five years, the number of black-owned GM dealerships has dropped by 25.6 percent, to 87. GM had about 6,900 domestic-brand dealerships as of Jan. 1.
Last month, GM North America President Troy Clarke said GM is creating a board of senior executives to oversee its minority dealer program.
The other new Harlem dealership, Potamkin Cadillac-Hummer, is owned by Planet Automotive Group. The company's co-chairmen, Alan and Robert Potamkin, own the property the Chevrolet-Saturn dealership occupies. Garontakos says GM holds the lease for that property.
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