When the automotive elite begin to assemble in Detroit later this week for the 2016 North American International Auto Show, they will be privy to a first of its kind event on Sunday Jan. 10, a day in advance of the official opening of the world’s largest auto show. The National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) and IHS Automotive will host the first 2016 Diversity Volume Leadership Awards at Cobo Center.
The DVL Awards is the brain child of two of the automotive industry’s key leaders in the fight for increased minority representation and participation in the manufacturing space. NAMAD president, Damon Lester and IHS Automotive Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Marc Bland are the driving forces behind the inaugural awards event.
“NAMAD’s overall mission and goal is to achieve parity in the auto industry, as the minority dealer body only has the representation of a little over five percent of are owners of new car franchises, and yet over 30 percent of new cars and trucks are purchased by minorities,” explains the organization’s president, Damon Lester. “We are committed to developing strategic relationships and achieving parity in which the owners of the car dealerships mirror that of the buying power.”
NAMAD is driving a legislative effort to ensure that all consumers and particularly minority consumers are treated fairly in the auto lending process, and prevent any form of direct or indirect discrimination when making a car purchase.
The United States is home to one the largest automotive markets in the world, boasting more than a dozen major auto manufacturers. But, of the 18,000 car industry new vehicle dealerships presently in place, it is estimated there are only 450 black owned dealerships in the United States.
“Without NAMAD we would go mad,” said Rainbow PUSH Automotive Project Founder and DVL Awards supporter, Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson launched the Automotive Project in 1998 to challenge auto manufacturers to end a multi-billion-dollar trade deficit with minority vendors and consumers and work to assure equal opportunity for diverse employees, entrepreneurs and consumers. “It is time for the auto manufacturers to shift gears and present benchmarked growth opportunities to all people of color.”
IHS Automotive is the largest automotive data provider in the world. Bland, an IHS executive says the proof of parity — or lack of it — is in the data. “We compile the data and analytical sources of the entire automotive community to assist them in meet their needs … Everybody talks about ROI and there is no better return on investment than responding to the needs fastest growing auto consumer [segment] in the U.S. which are ethnics, i.e., African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, West Pacific islanders and women.”
Smart automakers interpret IHS’s data into marketing strategies to establish diversity and inclusion goals, increase minority participation at the executive level and attract a more diverse buying audience which ultimately translates into profit. But DVL co-founders Lester and Bland say there is much more work to be done, and that leaders in the auto industry have to earnestly commit human resources and capital to achieve their diversity objectives and properly market to the ethnic community.
“At the Diversity Volume Leadership Awards we are recognizing, celebrating and educating the [market leaders] about the contributions of this fast growing segment of [minorities], women and millennials, “says Bland, adding “but more importantly we are recognizing those brands that have put in 12 months or more of doing the work to earn this award by outselling everyone else when it comes to those fastest growing markets of [minorities], women and millennials.”
The one size fit’s all total marketing strategy, which was once a fixed practice for major automakers is becoming a relic in the automotive market place, as companies realize (and in some cases embrace) demographic changes which impact how they will conduct business now and adapt to future consumer trends.
Companies to be recognized at the DVL Awards include Toyota, which employs four Vice Presidents of Diversity; Jim Colon, Vice President of African American Strategy, Pat Panetta Group Vice President of Hispanic Strategy, Latondra Newton, Senior Vice President of Diversity Strategy and Michael Rouse, Vice President of Internal Diversity Strategy.
Other companies that have invested heavily in diversity and will be recognized at the DVL Awards include General Motors and Honda. Brand models to receive top honors and contenders for the African American vehicle of the year award include the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima which index high with new and returning buyers in terms of minority and women consumers.
DVL Awards contenders for African American Vehicle of the year in the luxury category are the Cadillac SRX, the Lexus ES and Mercedes Benz C Class. Mercedes Benz moved its headquarters to Atlanta in 2015.
Coupled with the fact that the auto industry is one of the world’s most important economic sectors by revenue, and the ethnic minority consumers are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. auto industry, it’s smart to do business with the minority consumer as a key component in the corporate strategy and make ethnic and gender diversity a priority at all levels of the organizational structure; from dealerships to the C-suite to suppliers to employees.
“We are committed to developing strategic relationships and advocating for the advancement of business policies and practices that ensure diversity and economic parity remain a priority in all aspects of the American automotive industry,” concludes Lester. “Our goal with the DVL Awards is to make the public aware of what companies are responding to diversity [objectives] and make sure that companies understand that the diversity market share is not anything they can ignore.”
The Diversity Volume Leadership Awards Sunday, January 10, 2016. The invitation-only awards program, reception and dinner will take place from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. in Room 410-A at Cobo Center in Detroit.