News Column

Driving Force

April 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Anthony Limon

Fred Diaz
Fred Diaz

With 231 million vehicles on the road and more than 16 million new vehicles sold every year, job prospects in the automotive industry continue to shine amid a slowly recovering economy.

Industry-wide hiring is expected to increase this year as car sales rise with the growing population and baby boomer retirements create an even greater demand for new sales and service professionals.

"With increased demand for their products and a growing U.S. population, more franchises have been added, while others have expanded operations," says Marianne McInerney, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association. "This has led to the creation of more jobs within dealerships – new sales positions, Internet marketing positions, and service and technician positions."

Of the jobs being created, skilled service technicians continue to see the highest demand. The U.S. Labor Department reports the auto industry will experience a shortage of 100,000 technicians in maintenance and service areas alone in 2005.

No longer simply "grease monkeys," today's auto technicians are more likely to operate sophisticated diagnostic computer equipment than use wrenches. Also, they're more likely to afford the luxury cars they're working on: An experienced technician can draw a yearly salary of $60,000 or more, while master technicians can earn upwards of $100,000 per year.

Incentives to join the ranks of skilled technicians include tuition for certification (roughly $20,000 at a technical college or institute) and increased opportunities for advanced certification through manufacturer-sponsored advanced-training programs.

Opportunities in the auto industry also are being extended to multiethnic and multilingual job seekers as manufacturers and car dealers look to tap burgeoning ethnic and immigrant markets across the United States – most notably Hispanics.

HispanTelligence®, the research division of Hispanic Business, reports Hispanics spent nearly $35 billion on automobiles in 2002, making up 8 percent of the market. Fueled by increased purchasing power, that share could grow to 13 percent by 2020, according to J.D. Power and Associates estimates.

"If you're not marketing to the multicultural consumer, you're not in the marketing game," says Fred Diaz, director of communications for Daimler Chrysler's Dodge subsidiary. "The Hispanic market is exploding. If you're truly looking at growing your market share within the industry you have to market to the Hispanic buyer."

And marketing to Hispanic buyers means hiring Hispanic employees. CNW Marketing Research reports the number of Hispanics hired by auto dealers increased from 2.4 percent in 1990 to 7.1 percent in 2004, the second-highest growth rate of all ethnic minorities recorded.

"One of every five people on our sales force speaks Spanish and I would say about 15 percent of our automobiles are sold to Hispanics," says John Marazzi, general manager of Fort Myers Toyota in Fort Myers, Florida – the eighth-ranked Toyota dealership in the country. "It's not a matter of selling style. It's about customer service, courtesy, and honesty – and bringing all these things to Hispanic buyers in their own language."

The value of catering to the Hispanic market has hit the corporate level as well. Hispanic-owned auto dealerships increased 23 percent from 2002 to 2003, due mainly to diversity ownership initiatives such as Daimler Chrysler's Minority Retail Dealer Development Training Program, a $200 million initiative designed to train prospective minority dealership owners first as general managers.

Still, for manufacturers, auto dealers, and job seekers alike, the profits and opportunities remain on the sales floor. "One out of every eight car buyers is from another country and Hispanics are the fastest-growing market," says Ms. McInerney.
"Multiethnic marketing means understanding how products are perceived and placed in the marketplace and what constitutes a relationship in that marketplace. Automobile dealers are doing that by increasing the number of Hispanics working in dealerships."


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