Lithia, Lam recruit minorities to be dealers

Shau-wai Lam is hunting for the next generation of minority auto dealers.
Lam, former chairman of DCH Auto Group, was at the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers’ annual conference here last week interviewing candidates for the Automotive Minority Dealer Academy — a program he is spearheading in a partnership with Lithia Motors Inc.
When Lithia bought DCH in 2014, Lam joined Lithia’s board, but stepped down in April to focus on the academy.
The program targets minorities who want to own dealerships but lack the capital. The academy will provide funding to promising candidates and let them take advantage of Lithia’s infrastructure.
Lam said in March that Lithia can aid new minority owners with its “administrative expertise and skill to take care of the operational functions like legal, human resources, digital technology, finance and dealing with banks.”
During a presentation at the conference, Geoff Gill, Lithia’s director of human development, said, “Lithia’s role is to do the background work so you as a leader can focus on building customers for life.”
Lithia will funnel capital to help minority candidates get stores, but they’ll have to bring some money to the table as well. Lithia’s funding amount will be determined case by case.Lithia, of Medford, Ore., ranks No. 4 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 145,772 new vehicles in 2016.
NAMAD provided guidance on how the academy should be structured. A presentation at the conference was well received, Lam said.
He said 30 to 40 candidates are in the pipeline, ranging in age from 20-somethings to 60.
Lam said the academy will launch a pilot within 60 days at DCH Acura of Temecula in Temecula, Calif. He is open to feedback on the initiative.
“This is only the beginning, and we feel even though we are ready to launch, there [could be] areas of improvement. With feedback from more people, I think we can improve the program and make it more effective,” Lam told Automotive News.
The academy will offer customized training based on a candidate’s industry knowledge and experience in areas such as financial management, store operations, employee development, performance management and regulatory affairs.
Candidates will receive personalized development plans, in-store training, mentoring and ongoing assessments. External development through general manager training programs such as the one offered by the National Automobile Dealers Association could also be mixed in for some candidates.
While the timeline to get a store will vary, a general manager could enter into the approval process with the academy and end up with a dealership within six months to a year. But the timing depends on how a candidate’s geographic and brand preferences align with store availability. Lam said the wait could be significantly longer and that candidates must have patience.
Lam said Lithia is willing to groom managers in F&I or sales to become general managers. Once they have general manager experience, Lam said they can take the next step to become majority owners through the academy.
“We have to tailor-make the program to the individual’s level of accomplishment [and] whether he has the financial resources to take on the initial investment,” Lam said. “If that’s the case, then we can introduce them to the regional office of the manufacturer so they can get to know them and preapprove them.”
Fuente: Automotive News