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A couple of weeks ago (June 25th – 26th), I attended the NAMAD (National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers) conference in Chicago. NAMAD is committed to increasing opportunities for ethnic minorities in all aspects of the automotive industry, representing all African American, Asian and Hispanic dealers in the United States. These extraordinary entrepreneurs and community role models who call themselves dealers own or manage franchises that cover all Asian, Domestic and European brands. I was invited to participate in the opening panel discussion. The goal of the panel and overall conference was for the approximately 1,200 minority dealers to come together and discuss the current state of the automobile industry and what Minority Dealers can do, both collectively and individually, to get through the current tough times.

I was joined on the panel by my colleague Jim Dimond, VP Dealer Network Planning, and the following:

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson – World-renowned Minority Leader
  • Damon Lester – President of NAMAD
  • Sil Gonzales – Owner, Casa de Gonzales Automotive Group
  • Jay Rivchin – Owner, Dadeland Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep
  • Todd Bullard – Partner, Harris Beach Law Firm
  • Randi Payton – Owner, On Wheels Magazine
The three-hour panel started with me sharing my thoughts on what happened, both in the auto industry and economically, that created the current dealer crisis, which lead to a discussion on group and individual dealer solutions.

First and foremost, the minority dealers MUST come together as a single voice and support a united vision if change is to occur. I was a little disappointed to see only 25% turnout at the National Conference (300 of the 1,200 minority dealers in attendance). Based on this, I agree and support both Jesse Jackson and Damon Lester when they suggested the group come together as one unit instead of continuing with their current fragmented approach and collectively work with Washington to get some short-term relief. The relief from Washington could include a share of the bailout money designated for the Minority Dealer Community or some form of guaranteed loans.

Secondarily, there are immediate solutions that each dealer could independently implement to improve their business position including:

  • Recognizing the days of the “Fat Cat Dealer” are over and changing the way they’re doing business to align with the current industry.
  • Understanding the numbers are the key to success. What do I mean by this? For example, if a Dealer Principle does not like analyzing the numbers, then they should hire someone that does. Organizations such as Polk have solutions that can help dealers sell more cars while realizing more Return on Investment.
  • Building or strengthening their relationship with OEM regional representatives.
  • Proactively posing questions to OEM Reps to better understand their current position and what changes need to be made to improve this position with the OEM.
  • Re-assessing and improving their lead management strategy.
I recommend the extraordinary entrepreneurs and community role models who call themselves minority dealers go back to the basics that allowed them to become the successful Dealer Principles, Vice Presidents and General Managers they are today. Know your market including current strengths and weaknesses, focus on the customer, get behind the numbers and overall, remember it’s a business. If each minority dealer takes this approach with his or her dealership, then collectively the minority dealer community will persevere despite the current automotive industry challenges.

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