Calif. group helps Filipinos help their homeland

Dealer's local ties drive typhoon aid effort

Calif. group helps Filipinos help their homeland

After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in November, Tito Anopol, left, a salesman at Momentum Toyota, approached dealer Rahim Hassanally about what the store could do.
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LOS ANGELES -- After seeing the devastation wrought on the Philippines by deadly Typhoon Haiyan, Tito Anopol spoke up.

Anopol, a Filipino immigrant and the top salesman at Momentum Toyota of Fairfield, Calif., wanted the dealership to help rally support for the relief effort following the early November storm. So he approached Rahim Hassanally, Momentum Auto Group's dealer principal.

"When I heard, I came to Rahim right away and said, 'Let's help the Philippines and support the Filipino community,'" recalled Anopol, who has worked at the dealership for nearly 10 years.

Hassanally said he didn't need any convincing. In the days after the Category 5 storm blasted through the Philippines, Momentum Auto agreed to donate $100 for every car sold by a Filipino salesman or to customers who bought a car after receiving an e-mail blast about the sales promotion. As of Dec. 20, the dealership had raised $5,800 that it plans to donate to relief agencies; the promotion ends at year end.

Hassanally said the sales-linked fundraiser was the right fit for the dealership because of its strong ties to the Filipino community in California's Solano County, where Momentum Auto Group's seven dealerships with 16 franchises are located.

People of Filipino descent account for about 10 percent of Solano County's roughly 420,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 10 to 20 percent of the average 350 new cars the group sells every month are purchased by Filipinos, Hassanally said.

The targeted outreach after the storm was made possible in large part because Momentum has been an active proponent of multicultural marketing efforts. About half of Momentum Auto Group's annual marketing budget is spent on multicultural advertising.

"Our community is very diverse, so it's easy to talk about diversity in marketing, but we just pay attention to the people that make up our community, whether that happens to be African-American or Hispanic or Filipino or just your average person," Hassanally said.

"We're going to try to market for everyone, and our work force is made up of those same people."

The group advertises on local Filipino-language TV and radio stations, part of the 15 to 20 percent of the group's quarterly marketing budget targeted toward Filipino customers. Hassanally said the group's work force also reflects the community, as more than 10 percent of its employees are Filipino.

"We feel like we have a pretty good-sized demographic that we need to pay attention to, and that's definitely part of the reason we've had success," Hassanally said.

Those longstanding ties helped the dealership avoid any suspicion that it was seeking to capitalize on a tragedy. "If you're a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of organization, then you might have that problem, but we're so invested in the community," Hassanally said.

For example, he said, the group donated "a significant amount of money" to the Solano Mission, a local shelter that serves the homeless and hungry in the area, after thieves stole hundreds of turkeys from the shelter just days before Thanksgiving.

"Because we do things like that," Hassanally said, "people know that we really do care and we are serious about helping the community."

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