NBA Hall of Famers-turned-businessmen. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, left, and Isiah Thomas, center. Both played for the Detroit Pistons, albeit in different eras

Make no mistake about it: the cars are the stars. This is true whether you are on the road or if you attend the world’s largest and most prestigious car exhibition, the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit every January.

Often overlooked or lost in the public’s fascination with these aerodynamic wonder on wheels, however, are the brilliant African American minds who help to design, engineer, make parts, manufacture, install high-tech gadgetry, promote and sell the automobiles to an anxious consumer market.

For example, many Gen-X and Y folks are not aware of the depth of greatness of the likes of Dave Bing. Before becoming Detroit’s mayor, Bing was a perennial NBA All-Star for the Detroit Pistons and voted one of the 50 greatest players ever, and then transitioned into becoming one of the most successful African American businesses in the country. His automotive supplier companies, Bings Metal Group and Bing-Lear Manufacturing, which combined make up The Bing Group, had achieved annual sales of $375 million as of 2011. Not even LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose can touch those yearly numbers with their current NBA contracts.

Dave Bing, then and now.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Here are seven more African Americans who have achieved enviable statuses within the colossal automotive industry.

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