News Column

A New Deal for Auto Dealers?

July/August 2002, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Joel Russell

In January, when a group of Hispanic auto dealers decided to break away from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD), they enlisted the help of several Hispanic advocacy groups, including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). Eight months later, the new National Association of Hispanic Automobile Dealers (NAHAD) has established itself a separate entity with the mission of getting more import dealership into Hispanic hands.

The group was organized in response to a perceived lack of inclusion by the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD), whose original core constituency was African Americans. "That was a concern of mine three years ago," says Silvestre Gonzales, CEO of California-based Gonzales Automotive Group and chair of NAMAD's Latino Caucus. "I brought it to the forefront at a NAMAD board of directors meeting. Since that time, NAMAD has opened its doors, if you will, and appointed more Hispanics to its board."

But Lou Sobh, chairman of NAHAD, feels that NAMAD has "come out in the last eight months to get some Hispanic [board] seats, in what we feel was desperation." He believes the organization recruited "a few token people to show inclusion."

He also finds a problem in NAMAD's interdependence with domestic car manufacturers. According to Mr. Gonzales, the NAMAD board consists of 28 to 30 people, with the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Daimler-Chrysler) each appointing five directors. The other board members are appointed by the chairman, who comes from one of the Big Three. Mr. Gonzales attributes his seat on the NAMAD board to his involvement with Chrysler.

In contrast, NAHAD is "an advocate particularly with foreign manufacturers," says Mr. Sobh, CEO of Georgia-based Lou Sobh Automotive. "Most of the good franchises Mercedes-Benz, Toyota have not been properly distributed, in our eyes. … We are no longer satisfied with getting the crumbs that others leave behind. We want BMW stores, we want Mercedes-Benz stores, we want Toyota stores."

He adds that while NAHAD still enjoys the support of Hispanic organizations, "we are not run by the USHCC. … NAHAD stands by itself. We are trying to work with everybody. We have offered to work with NAMAD side-by-side on Hispanic issues." He expects NAHAD to have a Washington office and a director by September.


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