For the third straight year, RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive Holdings has been named the largest black-owned U.S. dealership group, according to Black Enterprise magazine. The Little Rock, Ark., group's revenues topped $1 billion in 2011, up from almost $894 million in 2010.
But the fact that the publication targeted to black entrepreneurs could find only 60 dealers for its annual list -- which used to include 100 -- indicates that many black dealers are still struggling to recover from the recession.
RLJ McLarty Landers placed No. 19 on the 2012 Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States. The list ranks dealership groups based on new-vehicle unit sales in the previous year. Black Enterprise bases it rankings on total revenues from all dealership departments in the previous year.
From 1987 through 2008, the magazine ranked the top 100 dealerships and dealership groups.
Reflecting the impact of the recession, as well as the bankruptcy restructurings of General Motors and Chrysler Group that eliminated dealerships industrywide, the list dropped to 75 in 2009 and to 60 in 2010. It has been 60 since then.
Alan Hughes, editorial director for business at Black Enterprise who is in charge of the magazine's black-owned business rankings, says not enough new black entrepreneurs are entering retail automotive. That is compounded by a lack of access to capital, he says.
"It's like being in the major leagues and you've got all these old players but there is no young talent coming up into the league," he says. "There are barriers to entry and costs involved."
Bill Perkins, owner of Bill Perkins Automotive Group in suburban Detroit, was named Black Enterprise auto dealer of the year in part for his role as chairman of the 2012 Detroit auto show. The magazine said Perkins epitomizes "the resilience of the U.S auto industry."