Study: Ethnic market offers opportunity

Ads for Toyota reach out to black consumers. A new study says that Toyota Division leads the industry in retaining U.S. minority buyers.
Amid slumping U.S. new-vehicle sales, a new study finds a bright spot: Sales to ethnic consumers are holding steady, and population trends suggest room for growth.

Last year, sales to Hispanic, black and Asian-American buyers accounted for 22.4 percent of the U.S. market, says the study by R.L. Polk & Co. That share was up slightly from 22.3 percent in 2006.

Polk based its analysis on new-vehicle retail registrations, which exclude fleet sales. The company is scheduled to release the study today, Aug. 11.

The study's message to automakers, said Lonnie Miller, Polk's director of North American industry analysis: "Don't take your eye off the ball."

Miller told Automotive News that car companies that build brand loyalty in the multicultural market will discover "there is more to come."

Mark Pauze, a senior solutions consultant for Polk, cites projections by the U.S. Bureau of the Census that by 2010, Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans will make up 33.2 percent of the U.S. population, up from 31.0 percent in 2005. By 2020, he says, their estimated share will be 36.7 percent.

"Establishing your brand with these consumers is important for long-term growth," Pauze says.

Diverse market
Buyers from key ethnic groups account for the following shares of the 2007 U.S. new-vehicle market.*
Hispanic: 9.9%
Black: 7.1%
Asian-American: 5.4%
Total: 22.4%
*Based on new personal retail registrations
Source: R.L. Polk

For the second straight year, Toyota Division — including Scion — leads the industry in retaining minority buyers, the study concludes.

Crafting distinct marketing messages to ethnic buyers is important, Pauze says. Such a message is an "invitation sent to you personally so that you feel invited, welcome," he says.

Miller said the ethnic market is not "one size fits all." He noted that Hispanic consumers return to the vehicle market more quickly than black or Asian-American buyers. That pattern creates greater opportunity for conquest sales, he said.

Overall, the Polk study says, U.S. new-vehicle registrations fell 3.3 percent last year from 2006, to about 12.3 million. 

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