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Jenell Ross on Creating More Opportunities for African-Americans in the Retail Auto Industry

In the midst of racial injustice and suffering throughout the United States, businesses are turning their focus toward diversity and inclusion. Several retail automotive groups are taking a stand and amplifying their voices to spark change. Jenell Ross, President of Bob Ross Auto Group joined us to talk about her unique position as the only African-American woman to own a Mercedes-Benz and Buick GMC dealership.

In this segment, Jim and Jenell first discuss her career journey in the automotive industry. At the young age of 27, Jenell assumed her role as the leader of the Bob Ross Auto Group after her father passed unexpectedly. Carrying on his legacy has been a challenging but rewarding process.

In light of the racial inequities that still happen on a daily basis in the United States, minority representation, especially African-American representation, is at the forefront of every industry, and automotive retail is no exception. In Jenell’s words, the lack of black-owned dealerships in this country is very unfortunate. However, in order to create more opportunities for African-Americans in the industry, Jenell believes that it begins with education.

When it comes to the buying power of African-Americans, there needs to be more of a conscious effort to bring this population into the industry. Jenell has made it a point to go into the schools and start dialogues early with young people about the opportunities on the retail side of the business. Education for consumers is important as well. If consumers have a better understanding of who they are actually buying from, then their shopping choices might look very different.

“There needs to be more of a concentrated effort to diversify on all levels within automotive. From the OEM perspective, from the suppliers’ perspective as well as the dealer body,” says Jenell. “We need to be made up of what American looks like, and it’s a very diverse country. And there is a lot of buying power from minorities buying vehicles.”

Bob Ross Auto Group has been serving the greater Dayton, Ohio community for over 43 years. In 1974 Bob Ross Sr. was chosen to participate in General Motors’ first Minority Dealer Academy where he was the first graduate to be approved as an automobile dealer. Ultimately, Bob became the first African-American Owned Mercedes-Benz dealer in the world. After his untimely passing in 1997, Jenell took over the dealer group and guided the dealerships into the future. Jenell is also a former chairwoman of the AIADA.


Did you enjoy this interview with dealer principal Jenell Ross? Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions regarding this topic with host Jim Fitzpatrick at jfitzpatrick@cbtnews.com.

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