Hyundai Auto Canada has become the first Canadian automaker to sign on to the BlackNorth Initiative, which, among other things, will see the company recruit dealer principals of colour.
CEO Don Romano said that as some veteran dealers are retiring and looking to sell their businesses, Hyundai Canada is planning to seek out people of colour, and specifically Black candidates, to purchase those dealerships.
“No one is going to tell me that there aren’t aspiring young Black entrepreneurs that would be phenomenal dealers to help us move into the future,” Romano said.
The BlackNorth Initiative encourages commitment from Canadian business leaders to ending anti-Black racism within their organizations and in society.
Romano said adding his name to the list of signatories reflects his acknowledgement of the need to increase equity and opportunities for Black Canadians.
“[Black] representation on boards, in corporation executive positions, is not adequate … and if you look at the automotive industry, it's even worse,” said Romano, who signed BlackNorth’s CEO pledge in December. “I have not one Black dealer out there. Not one. And that's an embarrassment.”
Romano also joined the initiative’s Education Committee, which is headed by Gervan Fearon, president of Brock University, and has a mandate of increasing equity for Black students in Canada’s education system.
Romano said his decision to join BlackNorth stemmed from a conversation with Maria Soklis, president of Cox Automotive Canada. Soklis was the first Canadian automotive industry leader to sign the BlackNorth pledge in November 2020.
“I guess you could say she made me ‘woke,’” Romano said. “I started doing my research and realized this is exactly what's wrong with our industry, that we are not acknowledging this issue and we’re not doing anything about it.”
Hyundai Canada is also actively engaging with Accelerate Auto, a not-for-profit association launched in February to combat anti-Black racism and increase opportunity for Black Canadians in the automotive industry. Joyce Tshiamala, district manager for Hyundai Canada, is a founding member of Accelerate Auto.
Romano said both organizations play important roles for the auto sector: Accelerate Auto addresses change within the industry directly, while BlackNorth allows the industry to play a role in effecting change in society more broadly.
As a result of these initiatives, Hyundai Canada has set internal goals for increasing Black representation in various ways, including: working with post-secondary institutions such as Georgian College to establish scholarships for Black students seeking opportunities in the industry; making internships available to a more diverse set of candidates; setting baseline requirements for the number of women and people of colour who must be interviewed for open positions; and establishing internal training programs to increase awareness of issues.