The largest Hispanic-owned dealerships in the country, as ranked by the 2012 "HispanicBusiness 500," have seen an increase in sales over the past couple of years as new vehicle sales bounce back. These dealers see Hispanic consumers as an important part of their growth, and are noticing trends in what motivates Hispanic consumers to make purchasing decisions.
"Hispanic car buyers mirror all buyers now," said Lee Mitchell, general manager of Greenway Ford in Orlando, Fla.
Hispanic consumers look for style, features and gas mileage, Mr. Mitchell said. The Escape SUV outsells the F150 truck in Greenway's Hispanic market, and the top seller is the Fusion.
The Fusion is "completely redesigned and is a fantastic car," Mr. Mitchell said.
Florida's struggles with real estate and construction coupled with higher fuel costs have led to "a slight shift from trucks to the more fuel-efficient vehicles," he added.
Hispanic car buyers tend to be "upbeat" when entering the showroom, Mr. Mitchell said, but economic conditions lead some to be "frugal and cautious" when contemplating major purchases such as a new car.
Greenway Auto Group is the No. 1 U.S. Hispanic dealer in the country, based on 2012 "HispanicBusiness 500" data. Frank Rodriguez, Greenway president, and Carl Atkinson, vice president of Greenway Auto Group, "have built a tremendous team through the years," Mr. Mitchell said.
April Ancira, a vice president with Ancira Enterprises in the San Antonio, Austin and Houston areas, believes there are more successful Hispanics in San Antonio than ever before; and they are not averse to spending money on a luxury vehicle. She says Hispanic consumers purchase vehicles based upon what they need for their lifestyles and careers.
Although she doesn’t have hard data, Ms. Ancira said one trend may be that Hispanics generally are more interested in larger vehicles whether SUVs, trucks or larger sedans. She reiterated that Hispanics like extra rear seating.
Hispanic consumer tastes are little different than those of other consumer demographics, said Irma Elder, CEO of the Elder Automotive Group, with dealerships in Tampa and throughout metro Detroit. Ms. Elder’s dealerships sell Fords and high-end brands such as Jaguar, Lincoln and Land Rover. More attention is being paid to luxury vehicles, Ms. Elder said, but “Hispanic consumers buy the vehicle that fits their needs. They are very practical."
Among Ford brands, the Fiesta and Focus are very popular, given their strong gas mileage performance. The F150 also remains a top seller and dealers report that the Fusion is a top-selling car among Hispanic buyers.
“Style is a major concern but so is safety, such as blind-spot recognition, Eco-Boost engines and hands-free technologies," Ms. Elder said.
Hispanic consumers tend to gravitate toward the Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Chevrolet and Ford brands, said Mike Shaw, owner of Mike Shaw Management Inc., a dealer group in the Denver area. Midsize cars are the most popular vehicles purchased by Hispanic consumers, he said, but vehicles popular with Hispanic consumers range from Toyota Camrys, Honda Civics and Chevy Cruzes to the Ford F-series.
One thing that has changed in Hispanic consumer vehicle preference, Mr. Shaw reported, is that economic and educational advancements within the community have made luxury brands more attainable for the Hispanic consumer.
The market is still recovering, but clearly some brands are returning faster than others, Mr. Shaw said.
“Hispanic consumers have made an impact by returning to the new vehicle market sooner than the rest of the U.S. population,” Mr. Shaw said.
Hispanics account for almost 30 percent of new vehicle sales, he reported. “They are definitely contributing to the recovery.
Mr. Shaw added that “desired features are based on consumer lifestyle more than consumer ethnicity.
"Overall, Hispanics tend to gravitate toward stylish vehicles that are affordable and of good quality,” Mr. Shaw said.
One of the changes Ms. Elder’s group has made to appeal to a growing base of Hispanic consumers is that the website for its Tampa store has been translated into Spanish, giving site visitors an option between English and Spanish.
“I think the new products that we have seen in our dealerships, especially with Ford, have had an impact on Hispanic consumers,” Ms. Elder said. “But the prices have remained pretty reasonable, too. Again, Hispanic consumers are very practical, but they also have more (purchasing power).”
Many Hispanic families are drawn to vehicles with third-row seating and other newer features, said Ms. Ancira. Hispanic “millennials,” she added, “tend to gravitate toward affordable fuel-efficient vehicles with technological features such as iPod connectivity.”
HispanicBusiness.com staff assisted in writing each of the articles featured in the 2012 Annual Automotive Report.