Six years ago, Toyota put money behind its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Toyota's U.S. sales and manufacturing operations pledged to spend $7.8 billion to expand the company's minority dealer development program and to buy goods and services from minority suppliers.
Toyota has kept that promise. Every year since 2001, it has awarded four to six franchises to minority entrepreneurs under the dealer development program, even though Toyota does not plan greatly to increase its overall number of U.S. dealerships. It has spent $700 million a year with minority suppliers.
"Toyota's minority representation as a percentage of its dealer body is among the highest in the industry," says Desmond Roberts, chairman of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.
"It's 7.28 percent for Lexus and 5.9 percent for Toyota" division, Roberts says. "Only Hyundai is higher."
Despite Toyota's progress, not everyone is happy with its overall record on diversity.
For years, black dealers have complained that Toyota and other import-brand automakers benefit from selling vehicles to minority customers, but provide inadequate training and financial aid to minority dealers. To a lesser extent, Hispanic Toyota dealers have offered similar criticism.Bill Shack, a former Ford and Honda dealer, says that was the case when he became the first president of the minority dealers' association in 1980, and is still true.
"I characterize Toyota the way I do most manufacturers," says Shack, who sold his Las Vegas Honda dealership in July. "They are in denial."
He adds: "They say, 'We want to do something,' but are not putting forth what I would consider a true effort to give us equality and parity in the industry, more so now than ever."