Suzuki and 50% in Saab, while Chrysler hit the mother lode late last year with its marriage to Daimler-Benz AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, to form the new DaimlerChrysler. Earlier this year, there were rumors DaimlerChrysler was courting Nissan, but the maker signed on this past March with French automaker Renault.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, couldn’t the imports simply tap into their domestic partners’ existing MDD programs? Not exactly, they say.
Ford has aggressively sought to keep the look, production, marketing and distribution of Jaguar’s models separate from its homegrown lineup. So it’s not surprising that Ford has extended this laissez-faire approach to Jaguar’s embryonic dealer diversity program. "The wonderful thing about the Jaguar/Ford association is that Ford gives us help when we ask for it, and lets us run our business," says Odell.
Ford seems to be taking a similar approach with its new Volvo addition, which has only three African American dealers out of its 360 dealerships. Neither does Bowers foresee the merger affecting its new dealer diversity initiative, which got under way earlier this year.
"We’re in the process of forming a Minority Management Advisory Council that will help us identify and select minority management candidates as well as minority ownership of some of our Volvo dealerships," says Bowers. He expects the selection of the eight- to 12-member council to be completed by summer.
Whether Volvo will create financial assistance for its minority candidates is still up in the air. But for independent operators like Cockerham, who need that assistance now rather than later, time may not be on their side. "Volvo is still in the infancy stage of developing their diversity program," she says. "But it will probably be too late for me."
–Additional reporting by Ahmad Wright