From Automotive Parts to Retail to Service - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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0130_bus-aeneas-williamsIn 2008, new car sales slumped dramatically and the National Automobile Dealers Association said that by the end of 2008 alone 900 dealerships out of 19,700 were expected to close, with a loss of almost 50,000 jobs.

However, one Honda dealership in particular survived last year’s fallout, albeit without its former owner. Former National Football League Pro Bowl player Aeneas Williams sold his Monroe, Louisiana Honda dealership — the last of four he bought in 2001 and 2002 — to Butch Carter, owner of the Carter Group, in December.

“The drop in sales was symptomatic of an overall problem,” says Williams, who is now the pastor at the Spirit of the Lord Family Church in St. Louis. He attempted to manage his dealership from afar in Missouri. “This experience has taught me that was not the best way to do it. It worked out best to relinquish and sell the dealerships and give someone else an opportunity that would be more hands-on and deeper involved.”

Black-owned auto dealers like Carter Group are fighting an uphill battle in the current economy. Some 150 to 200 minority dealers were among the roughly 800 U.S. auto stores that closed last year, Damon Lester, the president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, recently told USA Today.

While some dealerships have only started to falter over the last year or two due to high gas prices and less access to credit for consumers, Williams says that sales at his Toyota dealership, which he sold to the Carter Group in May, had suffered even before the current credit crunch began. Sales at Aeneas Williams Auto Group, which was No. 60 on the 2002 BE 100s auto dealer list, slipped from $71 million in 2002 to $41 million in 2007. By 2008, Williams Auto Group was no longer a BE 100s company.

The Honda deal must still be approved by the Japanese auto maker, which should announce its decision by June. Carter Group, which also controls and distributes patents for automotive parts manufacturers, has extensive plans in mind. The company wants to convert the old dealerships into tire and service centers and build new dealerships on land it has acquired near the old dealerships.

“I think this market for dealerships will go through a two-year period of immense shrinkage. People are going to hold onto their vehicles a lot longer and the tire and service centers will have a chance to be very lucrative,” says Carter, who plans to continue supplying parts to GM.

At face value turning the dealerships into service centers makes a lot of sense, says John Schmitt, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a non-profit research center based in Washington, D.C. “[Carter] is reading where the market is going to be two to five to ten years down the line and not where it is now. Where it is now, almost no investment makes sense. This is a moment where people who have deep pockets can profit.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.