Now in its 16th year, the annual Urban Wheel Awards (UWA) is set to once again recognize diversity efforts in the automotive industry. Hosted by the Emerging Diversity Education Fund and Decisive Media, UWA recently announced the winners of the 2012 Urban Wheel Company of the Year Awards who will be honored on January 8, 2012, at the Sound Board Theater, Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit, Michigan.
UWA is actually the nation's only award show bringing together celebrities, automotive executives, international media, government representatives, and the multicultural community to celebrate inclusion in the automotive industry. Because of its groundbreaking efforts, the UWA event is named the Official Multicultural Event of the North American International Auto Show.
This year’s event is expected to attract nearly 2,000. Winners of the Urban Wheel Company of the Year awards are being recognized for demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness in the areas of Workforce Development, Community Leadership, Minority Supplier Development, and Diversity Inclusion Leadership.
The 2012 Urban Wheel Company of the Year awardees are as follows:
* Chrysler Group LLC - Workforce Development
* General Motors Company - Community Leadership
* Ford Motor Company - Minority Supplier Development
* Toyota Motor Corporation - Diversity Inclusion Leadership
"Unlike many other events where auto companies contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars and receive very little PR value on vehicle sales, the UWA is designed to promote the companies and their products, as well as inclusion in major auto shows, where education of new vehicles take place," says Randi Payton, founder of the Urban Wheel award. "It is an ongoing struggle to get major companies to see that diversity is business and impacts their bottom line. If you were in the market for a new car, whose opinion would you trust? A celebrity in a commercial, an individual blogger, or a team comprised of professional multicultural automotive experts? That is the bottom line and UWA generates that type of content for consumers and the industry."
Payton discusses the 2012 UWA and the state of the auto industry.
TNJ.com: What are a few new things to expect this year?
Randi Payton: More than 2,500 in attendance, the 2011 Urban Wheel Awards reached a global media of 600 million via print, TV, radio, Internet, and membership organizations in the following categories: business, entertainment, green initiatives, automotive consumer and trade, multicultural, motorsports, and more. The event will be hosted by A-list celebrities, and media and sports personalities. Here are some highlights on what to expect:
• The Lifetime Achievement award will go to Warren Brown of the Washington Post. The industry and media will celebrate his legacy as one of the most influential auto writers in America. His auto column appears weekly in the Washington Post and over a hundred daily newspapers.
• We will celebrate several CEOs and presidents from major auto companies, including senators and congressmen. There will be a reception to honor Bill Perkins, the 1st African-American chairman of the NAIAS, which is the largest revenue event in America.
• A special tribute will be made to the auto companies that made major contributions to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial – General Motors, $10 million; Ford and Toyota, $2 million, VW and Hyundai $1 million and $500,000 from Honda. Harry Johnson, CEO of the project and Martin Luther King, Jr. has been invited to present.
TNJ.com: In the current economy, have auto sales by minority consumers dropped or risen?
Payton: Auto sales have been better than expected. There have been over 12 million vehicles sold this year, down from 16 million before the industry crisis. Minority consumers represent 25% of the market, according to R.L. Polk. The sponsorship for UWA was cut in half after the crisis, but many companies are coming back. Although most companies cut back on charitable events, UWA was one of a few that were not cut because of its overall value to the industry.
TNJ.com: Does this affect UWA?
Payton: The challenge for UWA is that other African-American events that have copied its theme are targeting the same diversity budgets. So we are competing for the same budgets and those making decisions do not distinguish between the UWA, which has a global reach and supports every aspect of the company, and a minority event that only has a few hundred in attendance. They simply split the budgets. Many companies have yet to see the global value of UWA and the impact on their bottom line sales. Therefore, R.L. POLK, one of the largest automotive research firms in the world, will announce its study at the awards on the impact that the Vehicle of the Year award had on sales in the multicultural market.
TNJ.com: Why was Chrysler Group LLC awarded for workforce development?
Payton: On behalf of the UWA panel of judges, the Emerging Diversity Education Fund, and Decisive Media, we are delighted to recognize Chrysler Group, LLC for its leadership in diversity workforce development. Chrysler also has an impressive record of leading the industry with diversity initiatives, and continues to expand on that rich history through its internal leadership and commitment.
TNJ.com: Why is General Motors Company getting the Community Leadership Award?
Payton: We are delighted to recognize General Motors for its leadership in community and educational projects, including its $10 million contribution to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
TNJ.com: The reasons behind Ford Motor Company picking up the Minority Supplier Development Award?
Payton: We recognize Ford Motor Company for its leadership in minority supplier development, including its $2 million contribution to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Ford Motor Company has an impressive record of leading the industry with diversity initiatives, and continues to expand on that rich history through its internal leadership and commitment.
TNJ.com: What developments led Toyota Motor Corporation to be selected for the Diversity Inclusion Leadership Award?
Payton: We are delighted to recognize Toyota Motors for its leadership in diversity and inclusion, including its $2 million contribution to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Toyota Motors has an impressive record of leading the industry with diversity initiatives, and continues to expand on that rich history through its internal leadership and commitment.