Nissan Motor Co., the sixth-largest vehicle seller in the U.S., said Thursday that it plans to boost minority ownership of dealerships 25% by 2002 as it seeks to reverse declining car and truck sales across the country.
The Japanese auto maker, which has 1,250 Nissan and Infiniti dealerships in the U.S., said its goal is to increase its 71 auto dealers owned by minorities and women to almost 90. It plans to double the number of dealerships owned by African Americans to 18 from nine.
The move comes after General Motors Corp., the world's biggest auto maker, said Monday that it plans to recruit more minority dealers.
Nissan has struggled as rivals Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co. reported record sales, with Nissan's year-to-date sales falling 28%, to 231,146, and its market share declining to 3.5% from 4.4%.
"It's been a tough year at Nissan," said company spokeswoman Trina Lagod. "This is part of our back-to-basics program to focus on boosting our sales."
GM said it has 270 minority-owned dealers, or 3.4% of its 8,000 dealerships. Chrysler Corp. has 134 minority-owned dealerships, or 3% of its network of 4,500. Japan's Honda said about 5% of its 1,270 Honda and Acura dealerships are minority-owned. About 5.5% of the 1,368 Toyota and Lexus dealerships are owned by minorities.
Ford Motor Co. had the highest percentage of minority-owned dealerships, with 338--or 6.7%--of its 5,059-dealer network. Ford has had a minority recruitment program since 1984.
Nissan said it will link the compensation of executives to their performance in appointing minority dealers. It also appointed a task force and two new executive positions to oversee minority representation in North America.
The auto maker also plans to boost the number of minority-owned suppliers by 25% within the next five years. The company didn't say what percentage of its suppliers are currently minority- owned.