Cheers to Women-Owned Dealerships on Int'l Women's Day
A few trailer blazers leveling the dealership playing field - in a good way
It’s no secret that the world of car sales is still mostly male-dominated — but there are plenty of driven and determined women looking to change that.
As of 2020, women made up 21 percent of automobile dealers in the U.S., up about 15 percent from the miniscule number of women who owned auto dealerships 20 years ago. But for many, the pace of change is simply not fast enough, especially when demand for new cars is at a historic high. That means more women will be visiting dealerships and looking for good deals in a seller’s market – not exactly the friendliest atmosphere. Luckily, there are some places out there with female owners who understand.
General Motors, which has been run by CEO Mary Barra since 2014, announced in 2016 that it was seeking to increase the number of minority and women-owned GM dealerships, which could lead to a 5.5 percent increase in female ownership if the initiative succeeds. One GM entrepreneur who has already found plenty of success is Carrie Way, who became the owner of Detroit’s Crest Automotive Group in 2016. Having worked her way up through the Motor City ranks since she was a teenager, Way now co-owns Crest’s two Ford stores and one Lincoln. Way and other female dealers in Detroit have emphasized the importance of hiring more women in public-facing roles, which increases sales by bringing in a more diverse clientele.
Women can also increase sales by approaching the dealership model with a fresh perspective, which is how Freeman Motors CEO Dianna Freeman found success at her Lexus and Toyota dealership in Santa Rosa, Calif.
After inheriting the family-owned dealership when her husband passed away, Freeman had to work hard to build a more welcoming environment for women as both customers and employees. It’s not an easy task, but with recent statistics showing that women influence 85 percent of all car purchases, it’s vital that dealerships cater to them.
There is also good news for customers who want to buy a car online while still supporting women-owned businesses. The Florida-based online car dealership SheCar is changing the game with curated search options, comprehensive car data and access to used vehicle auctions that are typically only open to the dealers themselves. CEO Athena Staton bids on cars on behalf of her clients, and doesn’t require a purchase from them unless the car passes a post-auction inspection. It’s the kind of no-hassle, no-nonsense approach that women specialize in, and we might be seeing a lot more of it in the future.
Related: How Women Can Win When Buying Cars