Big Three Committed to Minority Programs Despite Recession Problems With AM-Never On Sunday, Bjt

DETROIT (AP) _ U.S. automakers say they remain commited to boosting the number of minority-owned dealerships, though the stubborn recession has hurt the most ambitious plans.

General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. say they will suspend training of new minority dealers until they can place about 80 already qualified candidates.

Ford has lost 80 black dealers in the last two years, shrinking its total to 197 minority owners. GM has lost 34 black dealers, bringing its total black, Hispanic and native American dealers to 192.

Chrysler Corp. said its number of minority dealers has been stable at 84.

Most of the Ford and GM dealership candidates are working as managers at other franchises.

Ford, the nation's No. 2 automaker, says inexperienced dealers hammered by slumping sales couldn't survive. It has agreed to restructure the finances of a dozen black dealers, and may do the same for as many as eight more this year.

Specifically, Ford is cutting its minority dealers some slack on some payments owed to the car company.

Ford is also looking to place 30 graduates of its training school and 10 dealers who lost their old stores.

Rusty Restuccia, director of Ford's minority training program, said the company's goal of having 320 black dealers by 1990 has been delayed, not abandoned.

''We have not backed off our commitment, but it may take four or five years,'' Restuccia said. ''We're going to move it with the market.''

The plan received cautious praise from Mel Farr, who owns Ford, Lincoln- Mercury and Toyota dealerships in metropolitan Detroit.

''It makes sense not to train more people until the guys that you've got have stores,'' Farr said. ''But I don't think it should take four or five years.''

GM, meanwhile, said it is on target to reach its goal of 268 black, Hispanic, and native American dealers by 1993. GM does not separate its numerical goals for black dealers.

Joe Vasquez, GM's director of minority dealer development, said the No. 1 automaker is reevaluating its minority dealer program, declining to be specific.

''We've stopped the bleeding,'' said Charles Harrell, president of the GM Minority Dealers Association. ''Now we are focusing on getting stores for the candidates.''

Chrysler, the nation's No. 3 automaker, said it has eight candidates in training. Three of them are eligible to buy dealerships.