CENTERVILLE, Ohio -- In an industry in which dealer principals typically are white and male, the dealer principal at Bob Ross Buick-GMC and Mercedes-Benz is neither.
Jenell Ross, 41, is one of a handful of black women who own and operate dealerships in the United States.
What's more, Ross is the only black woman in the country who is a second-generation dealer principal, according to the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers. She also is vice chairman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association and is in line to become its chairman in 2013.
Ross became her company's vice president and dealer principal in 1997 when her father, Robert Ross Sr., died. She operated the family-owned business with her mother, Norma, who was president and CEO, until Norma Ross died last year.
Jenell Ross now manages the business with her brother, Robert Jr., vice president in charge of fixed operations. The family has been awarded a Fiat franchise that is to be operational by year end. The Mercedes-Benz store is being renovated to comply with Mercedes' Autohaus dealership-improvement program. The renovation is to be completed by the beginning of September.
Asked how she handles business situations in which she is the lone minority woman, Ross chuckles and smiles.
"I have fun with it," she says. "A lot of people who didn't know my parents or our history ask, "Well, how did you get here?'
"For the first two years after my father passed I felt like I needed to wear something that explains our story: "This is how I got here and as a dealer I'm trying to do what you're doing.'"