If Detroit's share has been tumbling fast, the process of rebuilding will take time, according to Sonia Maria Green, the Miami-based director of Hispanic diversity marketing and sales for General Motors.
In a profile in Hispanic Business ("Market Driver," April 2005), Ms. Green noted that "this culture is driven by relationships. Take time to establish relationships and you will reap the benefits."
There are plenty of benefits to reap, according to the latest data. The Hispanic share of the U.S. motor vehicle market is on a fast rise. In 2000, the community purchased 5.3 percent of all new cars and 6.5 percent of new trucks. Just three years later, that rose to 7.1 percent for both cars and trucks.
In dollar terms, Hispanic spending on trucks soared from $4.9 billion to $9.1 billion over that four-year period. And spending jumped from $5.3 billion to $7.8 billion for passenger cars. These numbers, incidentally, reflect the fact that Hispanic motorists are not just buying more cars – they're buying more expensive ones.
Also, Hispanics are collectively more sensitive to the nation's economic ups-and-downs, so market share numbers show unusually wide swings. In 2001, Hispanics bought a record 9.6 percent of all light trucks, but the trend to pricier purchases is considered unavoidable.
Casting Nets on the Web
While the Hispanic community has its obviously unique characteristics, many Hispanic buying trends resemble those of the broader market, such as use of the Internet to find information during the auto purchase process. Studies by the likes of California market-research firm J.D. Power & Associates indicate more than three out of four U.S. auto buyers do this, and that's echoed by data from comScore Media Metrix. And with 14 million wired Hispanics – increasing at 10 percent a year, according to Forrester Research – sites such as Yahoo! Autos and Edmunds.com registered solid double- and even triple-digit increases in Hispanic traffic during the 12 months ending in July 2005.
Web Coverage Correlates with Gains
Among auto-related sites, Volkswagen showed the second-largest gain in Hispanic traffic, according to comScore Media Metrix. And not by accident: Early in 2005, the German automaker launched a targeted Spanish-language site with the Web address Agarracalle.com. That's the translation of the company's successful and long-running English-language ad slogan, "Driver's Wanted." Agaracalle boasts a variety of tailored features, from animated images of each VW model to an automated dealer locator.
Volkswagen isn't the only maker targeting Hispanics, of course. There's been an explosion of independent Spanish-language auto sites, including versions of the huge buying service, Autobytel.com, as well as
ElCarroConexion.com, published by
TheCarConnection.com (which, in full disclosure, is published by this story's author).
Not all the maker sites are hard sell. Ford's Mi Negocio (www.ford.com/go/minegocio) emphasizes community outreach. But there are, of course, plenty of links back to Ford's main car sites. "We're very committed to this market," explains David Rodriguez, multicultural marketing manager at the automaker's flagship Ford Division. "We have been doing Hispanic marketing since the 1970s and we're proud of what we've accomplished. We truly believe in going way beyond ads and sponsoring festivals, and [are] looking at this with a 360-degree approach."
Ad Budgets, Strategies Shifting
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