The Mercedes-Benz CLA is the Urban Wheel Awards' Urban Car of the Year for this year. (Mercedes-Benz / MCT)
For the past 18 years, the Urban Wheel Awards have promoted and applauded diversity throughout the auto industry.
Sunday at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, the event — hosted by actors Morris Chestnut and Maria Costa — will honor Leon Richardson of the National Association of Black Suppliers as 2014’s Pioneer of the Year.
“Not only is Leon a good role model for minority suppliers, he’s also a leader,” says Urban Wheel Awards founder Randi Payton. “He’s very influential in the community.”
This year’s Urban Car of the Year will be the Mercedes-Benz CLA while the Chevrolet Silverado will be named Urban Truck of the Year and BMWi3 the Urban Green Vehicle of the Year.
This year’s guest speakers are Mayor Mike Duggan and North American International Auto Show Chairman Bob Shuman. Pop and contemporary R&B performer K’Jon will sing and stars Dwele and Mary Jane Girl Candice Ghant will be presenters.
“It’s not just a one-night stand, it’s a networking event,” says Payton. “The people who got behind me and helped me launch this thing, they saw the value and the need for this content.”
“It certainly is the embodiment of multi-culturalism and diversity,” says co-host Costa, a Detroit native and comedian who divides her time between here and California. She was a presenter at last year’s awards.
“It was really beautiful to see diversity celebrated,” she says of last year’s event. “It was great to see Detroit do it big like that. I had seen it in L.A., but this was the first time I saw it done Hollywood style in Detroit.”
A 2012 Kresge Artist Fellow, Costa’s latest project “Viva America,” a show in which the comedian plays a host of characters all from different ethnic backgrounds, all inspired by the people of Metro Detroit.
“ ‘Viva America’ takes on the politics of what we’re dealing with in the U.S. but with a Michigan perspective. We shot a 30-minute pilot, and now I’m shopping it around.”
Costa says she’s looking forward to hosting the awards with Chestnut, who most recently appeared in the Christmas drama “The Best Man Holiday.”
18th annual Urban Wheel Awards
5:30 p.m.: General and VIP receptions
7 p.m.: Awards Ceremony
8:30 p.m.: Afterglow
Detroit Marriott - Renaissance Ballroom
400 Renaissance Drive W., Detroit
Tickets $125 and $175, $200 for VIP
(888) 71-TICKETS or www.urbanwheelawards.com