Otis Thornton, currently a Buick dealer in East Brunswick, NJ, will be the owner and operator of Chevrolet and Saturn franchises at the Harlem Auto Mall that General Motors Corp. is building in New York City.

“Otis Thornton has been a valued GM dealer since 1993 and has shown strong entrepreneurial skills,” says John Smith, GM group vice president of sales, service and marketing. “We are very pleased that he has decided to commit his time and resources to this new enterprise.”

The dealerships are part of the big mall to be located between Second and Third Avenues at 127th and 128th Streets. The facility will include a Cadillac-Hummer store, owned by the Potamkin Auto Group.

It will be the largest automotive sales and service center in the city and the only one above 57th Street. It's expected to open in 2005.

“I am so pleased to have Otis Thornton as the new owner of the Chevrolet and Saturn dealerships,” says U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY). “This announcement is another step toward revitalizing and energizing this great community.

“This is exactly what I had in mind when I developed the Empowerment Zone legislation.”

The new dealership is being developed in conjunction with GM's Minority Dealer Development Program.

Developed more than 30 years ago, the focus of the first-of-its-kind program is to attract and select qualified minorities who have a track record of dealership, entrepreneurial or management success, and to help them become successful dealers.

Smith says, “Harlem is in the midst of a great renaissance and we are proud to be a part of it. We believe Otis Thornton will be a great asset to the neighborhood and to the business community of Harlem.”

Thornton began his career with General Motors Acceptance Corporation in 1974 as a credit supervisor. He bought his first dealership in 1993 after working at two others.

He was named Black Enterprise Top 100 Auto Dealer for 1994, 2001 and 2002 and Entrepreneur of the Year by the Baptist Ministries Conference of Greater New York in 2001.

Thornton, 51, and his wife of 31 years have two children.