DETROIT -- General Motors added 21 minority-owned dealerships to its network so far this year, with plans to add a "couple more" this month and perhaps more by year end, said the man in charge of the program.
Eric Peterson, GM's U.S. vice president of diversity dealer relations, acknowledged that deep-pocketed buyers such as Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. recently agreed to buy the Van Tuyl Group, will make it more challenging to find dealerships for minority operators.
But GM is still committed to finding those stores, he said.
"It's going to be challenging, there is no question, because the prices are going to go up. But our focus is to proactively go out and contact dealers, knock on doors and essentially ask for the business," Peterson told Automotive News this month at the Rainbow PUSH Global Automotive Project Summit.
"We have a plan and we're going to stay focused on what we need to do to accomplish our goals."
Peterson said GM's goal this year is to add 25 minority-owned dealerships, with a stretch goal of 30. The company has 219 minority-owned dealerships, up from 208 on Jan. 1. Though it added 21 minority-owned stores, it also lost 10, for a net gain of 11. "We're focused on the 30," Peterson added.
GM CEO Mary Barra told reporters that "we remain committed" to growing the company's minority dealer count. "We've seen several additions this year," she said. "We continue to work on that. It's truly a partnership."
Bill Perkins, owner of Taylor Chevrolet and Merollis Chevrolet, both in suburban Detroit, said while GM can do more, minority dealers can do more to help increase their ranks, too.
"As minorities, we have to do more to train each other," said Perkins, an African-American dealer who has trained eight to 10 aspiring dealers over the years, not including his son. Four trainees became dealers, he said. One made a decision to sell out, and the other three are still operating their stores.
Perkins made the decision to help others because he had help. He lasted for one year in his first dealership, a Pontiac store in Kansas City, Mo., that he acquired in 1988. Other dealers helped guide and mentor him, leading to the acquisition of a Pontiac-Nissan store in suburban Detroit in 1993. He sold that store in 2000.
"I had to start over again, and people helped me," he recalled. "I'll never forget it. I said to myself 'If I get a second shot, I'm going to return the favor.'"
Mike Colias contributed to this report.