Advancing Clean Energy

Local Black, Woman-owned Auto Dealer Boosts EV Adoption with ComEd

June 14, 2024

With the clean energy transition underway, more and more communities are switching to cleaner-powered vehicles and technology. This includes ComEd, which relies on a diverse mix of local businesses and firms to help source equipment that will enable a reduction in energy usage and help us move closer to driving down emissions.

That’s where Sutton Ford comes in. One of the company’s biggest suppliers is a diversity-certified, family-owned auto dealer in Chicago’s south suburbs that provides the new, electric vehicles (EVs) that make their way around ComEd’s service territory. Sutton Ford is helping ComEd reach its goals of electrifying 30% of its fleet by 2025 and 50% by 2030. Last year, it provided ComEd with 200 Ford vehicles, 100 of which were Ford Escape hybrids. Driven by a dynamic sister duo, the Sutton Auto Team is making its mark as it uplifts the communities it serves and helps advance the equitable adoption of EVs.

“To reduce the tailpipe emissions that come with touring over 11,000 square miles, we’re expanding our fleet of EVs, directly supporting Illinois’ goal of putting 1 million EVs on the roads by 2030,” said Norm Curtis, director of fleet for ComEd. “We’re proud to be working with a supplier who understands how transportation electrification will play an important role in providing a cleaner energy future for our communities.”

Established in 1989, Nathaniel Sutton’s first automotive dealership in Matteson has been supplying ComEd with its Ford-brand vehicles since 1992. Today, his two daughters, Karen Sutton-Ford and Karmala Sutton, the only two Black women Ford dealers in the country, operate the family business which has expanded to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Florida. However, because their father was the founder and owner did not mean their place in the family business was guaranteed. To ensure his daughters learned the meaning of hard work and industry best practices, their father required them to build their own automotive portfolio of experience before joining the Sutton Auto Team.

With a bachelor’s in finance and a minor in leadership studies from HBCU (Historically Black College University) Hampton University, Karen went on to work for Toyota Motor Sales in California where she climbed the ranks to become a District Service Manager with responsibility for 10 auto dealerships. Similarly, her older sister, Karmala gained industry knowledge during her time at CarMax, where she served as a cross-country used vehicle buyer.

“In hindsight, it was extremely important that my sister and I forge our own paths separate from the family business,” said Karen. “First, it gave us the freedom to choose what career path to follow, but once we decided to return to our roots in automotive, the corporate world taught us important lessons and skillsets that we could bring to our family-owned dealership.”

Karen finally earned her spot on the Sutton Auto Team after earning her MBA in 2015 and now serves as Dealer Principal overseeing all departments of the Matteson dealership.

As EVs become more popular – more than 100,000 registered in Illinois today – Sutton Ford is working with ComEd to become an EV-certified Ford dealer through the installation of EV Level 3 charging stations on the property. “I’m excited to see more people consider EVs,” said Karen. “I own one myself and though the upfront costs are currently higher than internal combustion engines, they are more affordable to maintain and power with electricity. I can see more customers walking in for an EV as manufacturers make them more affordable and as we build the infrastructure to support them.”

One of the challenges experienced at Sutton Ford and across the automotive industry today is the shortage of skilled technicians needed to service increasingly complex modern vehicles, including EVs. That’s why Sutton Ford works to connect high school graduates interested in the trades to manufacturer training and certifications, and it provides certified technicians with scholarships for continued education.

“Being an African American and woman-owned business, Sutton Ford is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce,” said Karen. “That’s why we invest in not only recruiting from our communities but also in training and coaching so our team members can gain essential soft skills like leadership and communication as well as automotive expertise.”

Sutton Ford is one of the many diversity-certified suppliers ComEd works with to advance an equitable, clean energy future. In 2023, ComEd spent a record of more than $1 billion with minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned companies, equaling 43.4% of the company’s total spend. ComEd also recently launched a three-year $231 million investment to provide rebates and new rate options to reduce barriers to the purchase of EVs and EV charging installation for all customers. Whether you’re a business or a residential customer, learn more about how to reduce your own carbon footprint and transportation costs by visiting