Bill Perkins, 1st Black Chairman of the North American International Auto Show
It’s been a remarkable and memorable year already for Chevrolet dealership owner Bill Perkins — even though 2012 is barely a week old.
Perkins’ appointment to the chairmanship of the 2012 North American International Auto Show makes him the first African American ever to be entrusted with running the world’s largest and most prestigious auto industry trade exhibit. The president and CEO of the Perkins Automotive Group — which includes the Merollis Chevrolet and Taylor Chevrolet in Michigan — was also bestowed the Pioneer of the Year Award during the 16th Annual Urban Wheel Awards at the Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit.
Perkins stole a few minutes away from a special reception in his honor prior to the UWA to speak with rolling out about his historic appointment, what fans and aficionados are to expect at the NAIAS and how technology has revolutionized the auto industry.
What should we expect at the NAIAS?
It’s four shows in one. We start off with press previews during industry days. Then we have charity previews, and then we have public days.
Describe to us what it means to be the first black person to run the world-class NAIAS:
It’s an honor to be the first African American to be chairman of the NAIAS. It takes a lot of work. It’s a five-year commitment. You work through various chairmanships. You work your way up to the chairmanship. We go all over the world attending various auto shows. We go to Shanghai, we go to Beijing, we got to Milan, Frankfurt, Paris and we do all the major shows around the country. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.
What are the keys to your success?
I tell you the truth. To get to this point … I’ve been in the industry for 39 years. My key to success has been helping others, giving back to others, not worrying about myself and then things just sort of happen for me.
What is your management style?
My management style is that I allow people to do their jobs. I think when you give people the tools to do their jobs and give them direction and you allow them to do their jobs, I think they will do it. I like to build people. A lot of people will go out and they will take someone from that person and they will take someone from that person. But I like to hire people that want to aspire, they have a desire to succeed. And I like making people successful.
How has modern technology changed the automotive industry?
Technology is really changing the automobile. We were at an auto show and we were listening to the head of Toyota talk about it, and he said that your car is becoming a smart “device.” What is happening to consumers is, you will be able to take your smartphone or iPhone and you will be able to communicate with your car. Things are changing. There will be some things at this year’s show that people won’t really believe. You make sure you go to Chevrolet’s display. They have smartphones communicating with the car. Ford has been there and Ford has a good system, but it’s a little complicated. But GM is coming with some new technology.