MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The number of minority-owned dealerships in the U.S. declined in 2014, a tally by the nation's largest minority dealers association shows. The decline was due in large part to three factors:
1. A change in the definition of what qualifies as a minority-owned store.
2. The purchase of a large minority-owned dealership group by publicly traded Lithia Motors Inc.
3. The decision to drop from the tally those stores whose owners are not U.S. citizens.
Data presented during the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers' annual conference last week here show that minorities owned 1,096 dealership rooftops at the end of 2014, down 1.8 percent from the end of 2013.
According to NAMAD data, the number of rooftops at the end of 2014 owned by Hispanic dealers increased 5.4 percent to 529, the number of African-American-owned rooftops dropped 5.1 percent to 258 and Asian-American-owned rooftops dropped 15 percent to 209.
Native American-owned outlets rose 5.3 percent to 100.
NAMAD President Damon Lester cautioned that changes in the definition of a minority-owned dealership skewed the data for some manufacturers, making comparisons of numbers from 2014 and 2013 difficult.
"We had to make sure that everyone counted the same way," he said.
Last year, to have all automakers use the same definition of a minority-owned dealership, NAMAD persuaded each company to count only rooftops that are 51 percent or more owned by minorities, Lester said. Minority operators who own less than a 50 percent stake but have the ability to buy their stores over five to seven years, such as those in dealer development programs with a manufacturer, also are counted.
Minorities who own minority stakes in stores for which they do not have the possibility to become the majority owner -- such as a store within a dealership group -- are not counted in the annual tally. But those are deemed to have what NAMAD calls meaningful participation.
Lester also said that minority-owned dealerships owned by non-U.S. citizens were purged from the count. He said he did not have those numbers readily available but "it was quite a few. Some were from Mexico and [others] were Asian dealers. They are not U.S. citizens and cannot be counted."
Before the 2014 tally, manufacturers counted minority-owned stores differently. Some stores were counted that were majority owned by nonminority dealers, Lester said.