Steering Toward Profits

One of the year's automotive growth leaders, Wintson R. Pittman Sr., found the right formula for success: a mix of domestic and import models, a crackerjack sales team, and multigenerational management

the elder Pittman beaming with pride. “The whole deal is designed whereby we have an equal amount of stores so that each kid, and/or their spouses, can have their own operation,” he says. Of course, he and Alma will inevitably decide who gets what.

Pittman has also worked to expand the pool of minority auto dealers, especially those who own import franchises. African Americans alone spend as much as $60 billion annually on domestic and import cars and trucks.

A former chairman of the National Association of Minority Auto Dealers (NAMAD) and former president of the DaimlerChrysler Minority Dealers Association (DCMDA), Pittman’s unwavering advocacy has been instrumental in increasing the number of international dealerships with nameplate franchises — including the likes of Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Kia — from 30 to 90 in the past four years. Industry observers say this increase is due to Pittman meeting with senior manufacturing representatives and challenging them to shape their retail networks to look more like America. Says Sheila Vaden-Williams, president of NAMAD, the industry’s largest African American trade association: “He has been a living case study and through his actions has shown corporate America the real potential that exists in the ethnic minority community.”

Adds his partner, Harrell: “As a result of Winston’s efforts, some import manufacturers are looking at things differently, including considering [the creation of] dealership development programs for minorities.” In fact, the auto dealer’s efforts recently prompted the DCMDA to create the Winston Pittman Sharing the Dream Award, which is granted to a black Chrysler dealer who, at his or her expense, helps other blacks complete DaimlerChrysler’s training and dealership development program — a rare honor for a entrepreneur.

As Pittman reflects on the past and prepares for the challenges ahead, he clings to the Carnegie maxim as his measure of performance. “Everybody can promise the world and tell you that they can sell 200 cars a month,” he says. “But I like to show what can be done because that’s what it’s really about.”

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