Car dealer Damon Lester seeks more ownership diversity

In 2006, before the recession, there were a handful of dealers, over 2,200. After the recession, that number plummeted below 1,000, largely due to the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler.

Lester joined the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers in 2002 and served as president from 2006 to 2022. At NAMAD, particularly from 2008 he focused on creating opportunities and fighting for minority dealers during the recession of 2009. In 2021, he became the owner and dealer of his Nissan of Bowie in Maryland, just three miles from his home.

The move from supporter to dealer did not happen overnight for Leicester. Lester said he tried to buy 15 dealerships before buying Nissan stores.

“I could defend others, but no one defended me,” he said.

Lester continues to promote minority representation in the industry.

“If you look at the data, our business case is that 30% of all new cars and trucks are bought by minorities, yet we represent 6%,” he said. “So the parity scales are not equal. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

When asked what he needs, Lester said three things: access, opportunity and cash.

“The average dealer organization on the minority side is probably 3 to 3.5 stores,” he said. “We need to scale up so that we can compete in terms of longevity. ”

Lester said there is a business case for the need to make funding available. “But we have to be creative,” he added. “We have to figure out how to partner.”

“We’ll probably have more than 10 stores,” Lester said of his plans in 10 years.

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