News Column

Opposition to Auto Group Grows

Hispanic auto dealers say no to USHCC initiative.

By Tim Dougherty
May 2002

An influential group of Hispanic auto dealers is voicing strong opposition to efforts by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) to form a national Hispanic automobile dealers association. Detractors have begun a letter-writing campaign to members of Congress and are phoning auto manufacturers to make their feelings known.

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“I’ve spoken to a lot of dealers and the vast majority are opposed to it,” says Dan Ramirez, vice-president and general manager of Ramirez Ford Sales in Rio Grande City, Texas. “Given my experience with the chamber, this looks like another ploy to get more money.”

The new association was announced at a January press conference in New Orleans (see “Hispanic Auto Dealers Form Group,” Market Watch, April). On hand for the event were National Council of La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre and Reps. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and Joe Baca (D-CA). Partici-pants cited long-standing in-dustry inequities and lack of access to capital as the impetus for the new group.

However, opponents say they are satisfied with the efforts of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) on behalf of Hispanics, and they view that group as the most promising avenue for continued progress. “I’m opposed to [the association] in the sense that NAMAD is already established and is already helping the Hispanic auto community,” says Julio Fuentes, founder, president, and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Everyone has a right to organize, but I’ve got to question the chamber’s involvement in this,” says Silvestre Gonzales, chairman and chief executive of Gonzales Automotive Group in Southern California. He, Mr. Ramirez, and other Hispanic auto dealers were scheduled to meet with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, D.C., on April 15. The agenda had a single item: concern over the new Hispanic dealers association. What most worries Messrs. Ramirez and Gonzales is the USHCC’s lack of experience in auto retailing. They fear the chamber will become a divisive force as it tries to establish itself as an industry advocate. “We want the politicians to realize that this is not a political issue. We are dealers and we know our business. We want to represent ourselves,” says Mr. Ramirez. “I can’t see how [USHCC CEO] George Herrera is going to be able to step into a meeting and offer me any kind of help.” Mr. Ramirez is among approximately 60 charter members of the new Ford Motor Hispanic Dealership Alliance. Formed in April, the group has endorsed the efforts of NAMAD and disavowed the USHCC association. Little else is known about the proposed association. There have been no further announcements since the January press conference, and details about the group’s organizational structure, membership, funding, and budget have not been disclosed. Calls to the USHCC were not returned.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine

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