Automakers assembling a diverse supplier ecosystem


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Growing up, James Group CEO Lorron James didn’t think he’d join the family business, but continuing its trailblazing legacy would later become his mission.

James Group got its start as O-J Transport Co., hauling beer and auto parts. James’ father, John A. James, founded the company in 1971, and it has grown over the years to offer an expansive service list that includes logistics, supply chain management and e-commerce services.

John A. James was working for Chrysler Corp. when he started O-J Transport with his uncle, Calvin Outlaw. James left Chrysler to go into the trucking business full time in 1978. He and Outlaw purchased 23 used trucks around that time to build their fleet, Crain’s Detroit Business, a sibling publication of Automotive News, reported.

It took years of legal wrangling at federal and state levels to obtain O-J Transport’s 48-state and international operating authority, the company said.

John A. James, according to the James Group website, is “the first African American whose company was issued broad operating authority to transport automotive parts and other commodities in Michigan.”

Today, the group’s clients include Ford, GM, Stellantis and Toyota.

James joined the company in 2007, two years after graduating from Arizona State University, where he played football. A sports fanatic all of his life, he initially planned to make a career in the athletic world. From 2004 until 2007, he worked as a community affairs coordinator for Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to Detroit to work for his father.

“Being back in Detroit was where I needed to be to make sure that I kept the family legacy going,” James said.

On his second day on the job, James asked his father where his office was located. The elder James gently led him over to a forklift in a warehouse and said that was his office. Looking back, James said lightheartedly that asking that question was one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

So he began his stint on a forklift and ended up holding numerous jobs in the company. James’ list of duties have spanned from truck driver, dispatcher and plant manager to working in marketing and sales. In 2018, he became CEO of James Group, which is composed of several subsidiaries.

Renaissance Global Logistics, which handles export consolidation for Ford, ships to 16 countries around the world. Renaissance is one of Ford’s first minority suppliers, James said, with a relationship going back to 1971. The company also does logistics services for Stellantis and GM.

Five Crowns Trucking shuttles between its customer’s sequencing centers and two Stellantis manufacturing plants.

Magnolia Automotive Services, a joint venture with James Group and Toyota Tsusho America, is a tire and wheel assembly operation for the Toyota Corolla in Tupelo, Miss., and for two crossover vehicles for Toyota and Mazda in Huntsville, Ala.

“Our business is pretty diversified,” James said. “Although we’re very heavily automotive, we do very different things for each of our customers.”

James’ brother, U.S. Rep. John E. James for Michigan’s 10th Congressional District, is CEO of Renaissance. Their sister, Keri James, is the founder and director of the philanthropic John A. James Foundation.

Young entrepreneurs looking to jump into the automotive space some day should understand that they may have to make adjustments at times, James said. Having a team around that can sharpen them is also key, he added.

“You don’t have to have everything figured out,” he said. “Even if you have a game plan, it’s probably going to get interrupted, and that’s OK — that’s totally OK. It’s probably a little bit less about what they do. More so, it’s who they’re around.”

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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