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VIDEO: Drive with Pride: Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Walser Automotive

Published June 22, 2022


Erich Christjansen’s journey in the auto retail industry began more than two decades ago in 1998 at Dwight Harrison Volkswagen in Snellville, Ga. Since that time as the company’s finance manager, Christjansen has served at a number of dealerships across the country, including in Las Vegas and San Francisco, before landing at Walser Automotive Group in Edina, Minn. 

“In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work for several [automotive] groups that have been inclusive and it’s been a privilege of mine to be associated with those companies,” shared Christjansen, who serves as Walser Automotive’s vice president of fixed operations.

Identifying as a gay man, a workplace where inclusion is part of the culture is absolutely vital to Christjansen. “For me, personally, I feel like it’s imperative for me to be creating an environment where my employees can feel affirmed and accepted in the same way that anyone else can be. I feel like it’s my responsibility to ensure that we have a culture that is consistent with those things.”

Like many franchised auto dealers nationwide, Walser Automotive is committed to fostering a culture with diversity, equity, and inclusion at its core. LGBTQ+ inclusion is built into the culture of Walser Automotive Group and as Christjansen explains, “[LGBTQ+] pride is part of who we are. We encourage employees to be themselves [which] goes back to culture.”

As Walser Automotive shares on their website, “an inclusive workplace is central to our business strategy, but it simply isn’t enough to focus on business results alone. It is the differences between people that are truly our greatest strength.” Walser stands behind its commitment in a number of ways, including its employee resource groups to empower their employees and bring underrepresented group together.

Since 2020, Walser Automotive has supported its LGBTQ+ employees with the Drive With Pride Employee Resource Group. The group focuses on education, support, and community outreach. “It allows us the opportunity to get our employees together and work on things within our community and how they relate to our lives here at work,” said Christjansen.

“I feel very honored to have been on the forward leading edge of inclusion and acceptance because it has not always been that way,” added Christjansen.

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