Billion-Dollar Dealer

Prestige Automotive is the first black-owned auto dealership to achieve this earnings milestone. Behind the wheel is a CEO focused on maximizing profits while grooming future business leaders

on his laurels, though. He is currently reviewing about five new deals and intends to expand the size of his impressive empire by adding two additional dealerships this year, one of which is already in the final architectural phase. To capitalize on America’s trend of buying foreign, Jackson is going international and completing a Mercedes-Benz location in suburban Detroit. “We’re very proud to offer a fine European brand such as Mercedes-Benz within the Prestige family,” he says.

But for black auto dealers who struggled to hold their own amid weak sales, last year’s tenuous market turned into a correction cycle that weeded out lesser players. “Last year, sales were either down or flat for most minority dealers. It was a year that really tested everyone, and tested them from the standpoint that you could no longer be in business and just hope for the best, you had to truely make the best of it,” says Jackson, who is president of the General Motors Minority Dealers Association.

GMMDA Executive Director Marjorie Staten says the decline in the number of black auto dealers came about because a number of black dealers did not run their dealerships efficiently, while others received offers they couldn’t refuse — in many cases, selling to nonminority dealers.” Of its 7,500 dealerships, 109 are owned by African Americans. As American automakers lose ground to their Asian rivals, more African American dealers are going after imports. General Motors is struggling with poor car sales in North America. With the once-dominant U.S. market share of the world’s largest automaker eroded to 25.4%, it’s hard to tally the exact effect this has on GM minority dealers.

MAINTAINING A COMPETITIVE EDGE
It is no coincidence that dealerships are trying to improve their reputations with customers at a time when vying for car buyer’s attention is especially intense. So what competitive advantage does Prestige have over its peers? “Greg Jackson is the advantage that Prestige Automotive has over other dealerships,” says Rick Wagoner, GM chairman and chief executive officer. “Greg recognizes that an integral part of running a successful business requires a commitment to his customers and their complete satisfaction, and being an active member of the community in which the dealership operates.”

As a member of the GM Minority Dealers Advisory Council, Jackson has been instrumental in helping to bring dealer issues and ideas to the GM board. He says minority dealers should give auto manufacturers more than a “social” reason to do business with them. “We must show them we can be financially profitable, create market share for them, and earn customer satisfaction. Years ago, it was all social. In today’s landscape, it is socio-economic. It is about money,” says Jackson.

Despite some gains and some troubling losses in the industry, Jackson thinks things are looking good for black-owned dealers. “Progress still does not seem to be coming as quickly as it could or as it should. African American dealers and all minority dealers have to be students of the game,” explains Jackson. He says minority dealers

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