News Column

Corner Office: Car Customer Still King

November 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

For years, Hispanic Business has worked to build a statistical portrait of the U.S. automobile industry's convergence with the Hispanic market. This issue realizes that goal with two data-driven articles, one focusing on the product ("Racing to Market") and the other on consumer marketing ("Wandering Eyes").

The portrait reveals a consumer segment with growing affluence and sophistication in car buying. For example, despite the stereotype of Hispanics as brand-loyal for life, the data show Hispanics switching from domestic to import cars. This change goes beyond the typical small, gas-saving import models.

According to the HispanTelligence® report "The U.S. Hispanic Economy in Transition: Facts, Figures & Trends," upscale Hispanics are 12 percent more likely than the national average to buy an import car.

Meanwhile, increasing Hispanic purchasing power points to a market moving beyond entry-level models into high-end trucks, luxury sedans, SUVs, and sports cars. Pontiac has found a winning formula by marketing its G6 model with racer Milka Duno ("Fast-Track Advertising"), and truck marketers at Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors have connected successfully with the Hispanic buyer. All these developments demonstrate that contemporary Hispanics respond more to product performance and real-world benefits than to a pitch about brand loyalty.

But the new product-savvy Hispanic consumer has become a force at the same time auto giants face multiple identity crises: high gasoline prices threaten to undermine truck and SUV sales, new competitors continue to fragment the market, and old manufacturing systems struggle to function in a global economy. In this context, the value of the Hispanic market looms even larger. Because in the future, steadily increasing purchasing power, educational attainment, and entrepreneurial success will make Hispanics key consumers, employees, and suppliers for the auto industry.

Manufacturers have engaged the market on all fronts: General Motors has tapped Sonia Maria Green to comprehensively manage Hispanic marketing, and Ford won the 2005 Corporation of the Year Award from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Diversity programs are in place to handle Hispanic suppliers, dealers, community groups, and consumers.

But the real power comes back to "moving the metal" – otherwise known as selling more cars. With both foreign and domestic brands now focusing attention on the market, competition will play in favor of Hispanics.
As Hector Orcí, founder of advertising agency La Agencia de Orcí, told Hispanic Business readers earlier this year (see "Shrinking Divide," July/August 2005 issue): "Now marketers understand that if they don't take this market seriously, it will affect their overall marketing goals."

Jesús Chavarría
Editor & Publisher

PS The market-specific analysis that Hispanic Business applies to cars in this issue will apply to healthcare in future coverage in the magazine and online.


Story Tools