In 1979, Jenell Ross’ father, Bob Ross Sr., became Mercedes-Benz’s first Black dealer. Ross, who is a second generation Mercedes-Benz dealer, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the luxury dealership this year. She’s has held the much deserved title of leading the Ohio-based Bob Ross Auto Group for the past two decades, as a result of her father’s passing.
In a day and time, when it was still rare for ethnic minorities to land non premium dealerships like Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Chrysler, Ross’ father managed to earn the keys to secure a German luxury franchise. Traditionally, these upper echelon dealerships were typically awarded to White men. Still today despite the slow progress ethnic minorities have made in gaining access to the keys, its a rarity to find them in the dealers seat, especially when they’re a Black woman.
While men continue to outpace women in their household in terms of registering new vehicles, ironically, that is not the case for Black women, who are slightly outpacing Black men in their household in terms of registering new vehicles in their name. In fact, Black women register a slightly larger share of new vehicles in their name, when compared to other households.
Conversely, while Black women are making inroads due to their buying power, it hasn’t translated to the ownership ranks. In fact, Ross is just one of a handful of Black women who have managed to get their hands on less than 20 of the approximate 19,000 new-car dealerships scattered throughout the United States.
Sadly, while many statistics infer that women play a key role in influencing car buying decisions in their household, as a group, they have less than a 1 percent ownership stake in all of the U. S. stores. In a business where many dealership owners are a member of the millionaires’ club, only 2 Black women have been able to move beyond just owning one of the world’s most prestigious luxury cars to actually having skin in the game, in terms of owning a Mercedes-Benz new-vehicle franchise.
Jenell Ross and Juanita Baranco, who is one of the co-owners of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead, are a part of this tight-knit pact of Black women who hold keys. These two entrepreneurial women have managed to add a little ‘Black Girl Magic’ to Mercedes-Benz approximated 400 new-vehicle franchises based in the United States.
Ironically, although Blacks, as a whole, own only 7 of the German luxury maker stores, which equate to less than 2 percent of all of the brand’s luxury stores, Mercedes-Benz is one of the top two most purchased luxury brands within the Black community.
This weekend Jenell Ross, whose been in the driver’s seat for over two decades, takes time out of her hectic schedule to talk to SiriusXM’s Auto Trends with JeffCars.com about how her dad landed a Buick store, which was his first dealership, to how he acquired the Mercedes-Benz franchise to how she has managed to make sure the family-owned dealership has continuously maintained a spot on Black Enterprise’s annual top dealers listing since its first landed a spot in the seventies – despite many minorities being forced to close their doors approximately 10 years ago, as a result of the Great Recession.
Ross, who is the chair of the Federal Reserve Bank Cincinnati branch, continues to keep her parents dream and legacy alive, as she makes her own mark in the automotive industry and beyond.
To Tune In
To hear the conversation, tune in to Auto Trends with JeffCars.com Friday, March 29 at 12:00 P.M. ET on SiriusXM Channel 141. Encore broadcasts can be heard on Sunday, March 31 and Monday, April, 1 at 12:00 P.M. ET and 1:30 P.M. ET, respectively.
Cruise over to SiriusXM to find out more about free trials and how to listen in your car or on your smartphone. To find out about future guests and conversations, visit JeffCars.com.