The United States has one of the largest automotive markets in the world and is home to 13 auto manufacturers. The automotive industry is one of the world’s most important economic sectors by revenue. However, when it comes to diversity and inclusion, the auto industry has a long way to go to achieve a diverse and inclusive work environment at all levels of the organizational structure; from dealerships to the C-suite to suppliers to employees.
Of the 22,000 car industry new vehicle dealerships presently in place, it is estimated there are only approximately 450 black owned dealerships or 2 percent of the total.
“The auto manufacturers have maintained a one-sided relationship with minorities, viewing us as consumers rather than business partners. It is time for the auto manufacturers to shift gears and present benchmarked growth opportunities to all people of color,” said Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder of the Rainbow PUSH Automotive Summit held in Detroit for the past 16 years.
Jackson also complained that business leaders “keep changing the rules,” indicating that auto makers in some cases had broken agreements with regard to minority participation. He cited the decline in the number of minority owned auto dealerships and minority auto supplier contracts as evidence that some agreements to increase minority participation had not been honored.
“Minority companies need a short-term plan for survival and long-term critical path to success with measurable goals, targets and timetables. Many of our award-winning minority companies are at an economic crossroad that is hinged on a plan for growth. There is not a talent deficit among minority companies; there is an access and commitment deficit from auto manufacturers. It is time to shift the paradigm and hold the auto industry accountable.”
The Automotive Project launched in 1998 to challenge corporate America to end multi-billion dollar trade deficit with minority vendors and consumers and work to assure equal opportunity for diverse employees, entrepreneurs and consumers. The Project is to: improve hiring, promotion and retention practices; name more minorities to corporate boards, and allocate more capital to minority companies.
“The only way to achieve a meaningful return on investment for the dollars we spend with auto companies is to measure our progress on fair trade, because what is measured is what matters,” said Jackson.
In 2015 the Automotive Project developed a multi-topic assessment scorecard of diversity in the auto industry.
Of the 12 automotive companies that participated in the diversity scorecard, Ford Motor Co. received the top ratings, including green marks in five of six categories. “At Ford, we are proud of our inclusive business practices, and we recognize diversity as strength,” said Ford spokeswoman Becky Sanch. “Diversity and inclusion strategies are an integral part of our business and we recognize how valuable they are to drive innovation, compete in the marketplace and serve the greater community.”
General Motors has continued to build a strong diversity track record.
“Our diversity and inclusion efforts are something we take seriously,” said Leslie Gordon, senior manager of diversity communications at General Motors, who garnered green marks for employment, procurement, and philanthropy.
General Motors works with more than 200 certified minority and women-owned businesses in the United States and Canada. In 1968, the company became the first automotive original equipment manufacturer to establish a formal supplier diversity program and, as a result, General Motors’ affirmation of their commitment is visible among minority and women-owned businesses where the company has spent more than $70 billion since the program’s inception, according to GM officials.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Nissan, and Honda received green for employment, while Honda and Hyundai each received green respectively for procurement and minority dealer development.
Green marks for philanthropy also went to General Motors, FCA, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen.
BMW and Mercedes Benz were the only companies to receive red indicators in each of the categories which included employment, advertising, marketing, procurement, minority dealer development, and philanthropy.