As Automakers Rebound, Will the Industry Maintain its Diversity?
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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Edward T. Welburn Jr., General Motors VP of Global Design

Mobbed by executives, journalists, and owners, General Motors Vice President of Global Design Edward T. Welburn Jr. unveiled the 2014 Corvette Stingray at the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit. As admirers examined the lines and features of the low, light, and lean carbon fiber machine, Welburn recounted how he’d brought together top designers and engineers to produce a vehicle that would “build on tradition but that was also forward thinking.” GM President Mark Reuss told Black Enterprise that there’s a lot riding on the introduction of the 2014 Stingray, the first of a series of launches “as we redo our product portfolio over the next 18 months”–one of the most revolutionary pursuits undertaken by the automaker in its 105-year history.

GM’s rebirth is indicative of the transformation taking place throughout the automotive industry. After surviving near-death experiences just four short years ago–GM and Chrysler emerged from government-managed bankruptcies–domestic automakers have come roaring back while manufacturers of imports remain in the fast lane. Check out the stats: New car sales have increased from 10 million in 2009–the height of the Great Recession–to 14.5 million in 2012, the best performance in the past half decade. Analysts expect auto sales to zoom past 15 million in 2013. According to automotive research and marketing firm R.L. Polk, auto registrations for new vehicles grew faster among ethnic groups than among any other consumer segment in recent years. Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, and Honda have been identified among the top brands favored by African American consumers, according to a 2012 Polk analysis. Marc Bland, Polk’s head of diversity and inclusion, says, “2012 U.S. new vehicle registrations are up 14% versus 2011. This is good news, but it pales in comparison to the combined group of ethnic consumers–African Americans, Asians, and Latinos–growth of 23%, which is 60% greater than the overall industry.”

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