GM Women Preserve Traditions in Automotive Business
More than 269 of General Motors’ dealerships are owned by women and employ more than 10,700 people. Last year these women sold approximately 136,000 cars and trucks generating $7.1 billion in sales. In 2001, GM launched the Women’s Retail Initiative, the only program of its kind in the automotive industry, in order to attract women to dealerships. Among the 269 women in dealerships, these four teams of mothers and daughters are examples of the women paving the way and succeeding in what was long considered a man’s business.
Casee Hamilton grew up doing odd jobs in her father’s dealership in Redmond, Ore., but never expected the work to become her life. When David Hamilton passed away in 2004, Casee and her mother Nancy stepped in to keep the business running. The mother daughter team was the first to graduate from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Academy together. Nancy, who devoted her life to being a wife and mother, found herself thriving as a successful business woman at the age of 58.
Women now own nearly half (48 percent) of all privately-held businesses in the United States, employing more than 19 million workers and generating a whopping $2.5 trillion in sales, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. Women-owned businesses are also growing twice as fast as all other private companies. Naturally, women are turning to their daughters to travel the paths they’ve blazed. The center reports that 30 percent of women business owners plan to pass their businesses on to their daughters, while only 11 percent of men plan to do the same.
Freda Lockhart and her daughter Lynn Kimmel represent two generations of women owned dealerships with a third generation, Lynn’s daughter Kristin Mount, working to learn all aspects of the business. Lockhart went into business with a widow who had taken over her husband’s dealership and eventually bought out her partner. In 1976 Kimmel joined her mother’s business as a Finance and Insurance manger. By 1978 she was running her own dealership. Lynn owns six GM dealerships in the greater Indianapolis, Ind., area.
“My mother was such an amazing business woman,” said Kimmel. “She inspired and encouraged me to follow in her footsteps. Now my daughter is adding to our growing group of business women.”
Mount began working in Kimmel’s dealership in her early teens and now, serves as Finance and Insurance manager. Mount is also attending the NADA Academy working towards the goal of owning her own dealership.
Gail Dressing’s daughter Ashley is taking a different route from her mother and grandfather. Gail also grew up working in her father’s dealership and gained a love for the business. Inspired by her father, a former NADA president, she opened her own dealership, Green Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac in Jacksonville, Ill., in 1977. Following graduation from college, Ashley started her career as a technician in her aunt’s Chevy dealership in nearby Moline, Ill. Ashley is now attending the NADA Academy like her mother and grandfather before her.
“I’m not certain which aspect of the dealership I will end up working in,” said Ashley. “But I know I love this business and can’t imagine doing anything else.”