Fifty Years On, GM Celebrates Decades of Minority Dealer Development Success
June 20, 2022
By: Jennifer McKeogh
To recognize the 50th anniversary of the Minority Dealer Development Program, we’re highlighting one dealership family’s story …
In 1971, GM’s first African American board member Reverend Dr. Leon H. Sullivan had a vision: to develop “a new Black dealership program to add 50 new dealers over the next three years.”
As a civil rights activist, Dr. Sullivan and his team knew that Black dealers across the U.S. needed assistance. What he didn’t know was that his vision would lay the foundation for what operates today as GM’s Minority Dealer Development program, or MDD.
Since then, GM has expanded the MDD program to provide opportunities to qualified African American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American minorities to prepare them to become dealers and to help them succeed once they do. This month, the MDD celebrates 50 years of developing minority-owned dealership opportunities.
Building dealers and diversity
GM was the first U.S. automaker in the industry to institute a structured minority dealer program. Today, minority dealers are among the most successful in the General Motors network.
Through the program, GM has helped create numerous opportunities for minorities to launch new, successful automotive dealers and increase support for current minority-owned dealers to receive what’s needed to grow their business.
But the road to the MDD program was not easy. Discrimination throughout the 1960s meant Black and other diverse communities needed to work significantly harder to clear numerous hurdles to open a dealership. Dr. Sullivan’s vision foresaw far more equitable treatment for these groups that hoped to become entrepreneurs with GM dealerships of their own.
By 1972, GM saw the opportunity to formalize a program to provide tools, training, counsel and a network of business leaders for those marginalized and looking for equal opportunity. What became the MDD program was about action: It broke down barriers for minority groups to help build a strong business, create jobs and give back to their communities.
A family legacy of leadership
Following the implementation of the MDD program, dealership owners like William “Bill” Perkins helped pay it forward and make an impact with the tools GM’s MDD program provided.
“Most dealership owners didn’t look like me, so I was proud that GM was putting this program together,” said Bill, owner of Bill Perkins Automotive Group. “What I love most is that GM helps their dealers to become independent.”
Bill began his career working directly for GM in 1972, the same year the MDD program rolled out. He quickly became an advocate for the program in his role managing a territory of dealers on the West Coast, and he signed one of the first minority dealers within the program in 1975.
Bill decided to transition to automotive retail in the 1980s and enrolled in the MDD program himself. He purchased his first store in Kansas City, Missouri, Perkins Pontiac Buick, and then opened a second dealership in Detroit in 1993.
Bill’s success through MDD left an impression on his son, William “Monte” Perkins II, whose fond memories of growing up at his father’s stores led him to become an entrepreneur and enter the MDD program years later.
“I realized if I wanted to go into business in the auto industry, who would I rather learn from than my dad?” said Monte, owner of American Chevrolet Cadillac in Muncie, Indiana, and Saline Chevrolet located in Saline, Michigan. “I was able to move forward within the ranks of the dealership because he helped prepare me.”
With the support of GM behind them, Bill and Monte became living proof of the good that comes from the MDD program.