Jesse Jackson ready to go to Germany to discuss BMW boycott
Jesse Jackson on BMW: “If they want to grow, they must approach our market differently.” Photo credit: Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said he is prepared to go to Germany.
Jackson, who called for a boycott of BMW products on Oct. 20 because of a lack of diversity among its dealer body, says he is willing to cross the Atlantic to meet with BMW executives on their home turf and discuss how they can diversify.
African-Americans own seven BMW stores out of 364 in the U.S., according to the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers’ 2016 census. Hispanics own five BMW stores, while Asians own nine.
Jackson said he hasn’t spoken with BMW since he called for the boycott.
BMW didn’t reply to the organization’s survey for its latest Automotive Diversity Scorecard that was released during the RainbowPUSH Global Automotive Summit in Detroit. Jackson said he believes the automaker is ashamed of its record.
“If they want to grow, they must approach our market differently,” Jackson told Automotive News. “We took a group to Japan [several years ago]. Toyota, Honda and Nissan were our hosts. After that, there were some improvements. We’re going to South Korea.”
He added, “We want goals, targets and timetables. We want reciprocity and mutual benefits. We’re going to boycott BMW until we get some answers about fairness.”
In response to the call for the boycott, BMW said in a statement last week that it has a “decades-long commitment to diversity and it’s evident in our employees, our suppliers and our dealerships. As an active member of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, we are always looking for ways to increase both management and ownership of our dealerships by minorities.”
The biennial scorecard measures the progress automakers are making to diversify their ranks. It tracks automakers in the categories of employment, advertising, marketing, procurement, dealers and philanthropy. The group assigns color-coded scores in green — the top rating — yellow and red. BMW didn’t participate, so the automaker received red marks in every category.
The top five brands in the latest scorecard are Ford, Toyota, General Motors, Nissan and Hyundai.
Industrywide, Jackson said progress has been made, but there’s still work to be done in bringing in more minority dealers. For example, he pointed to the Great Recession’s impact on African-American dealers. Their numbers tumbled and haven’t recovered to pre-recession levels.
The number of minority-owned stores fell to 873 rooftops in the U.S. in 2011 from a peak of 1,805 in 2005. Minority rooftops have steadily grown since, reaching 1,112 in 2016.
Jackson said the inclusion issue goes well beyond dealerships for the entire industry.
“We [African-Americans] are over-indexing in the auto industry as consumers and under-indexing as partners,” Jackson said. “Dealerships are one part of it, [but] there’s suppliers, ad agencies, marketing, lawyers, financial services, the whole range of the industrial guts of the industry.”