DETROIT -- The Big 3 are targeting minority consumers more aggressively to boost sales and tap into the growing purchasing power of blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
Minorities are expected to constitute 46 percent of the total U.S. population by 2045, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In that same year their purchasing power is seen as reaching an annual $4.3 trillion, the Department of Commerce says.
"The census is probably an awakening for everyone, and we certainly took the numbers to heart," said Chris Robinson, director of diversity marketing and sales at General Motors.
To attract more black customers, the world's largest automaker launched a print advertising campaign dubbed "One Reason" featuring its top black executives. Appearing in magazines read mainly by black consumers, the campaign stresses GM's commitment to diversity as one reason to buy its vehicles.
Another campaign called "Súbete" -- or "Get In" -- for GM's Chevrolet brand is also under way to woo Spanish-speaking car buyers.
"Everybody is looking or scrambling for whatever market share they can get," Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing/Research Inc., said of redoubled efforts to lure minority buyers.
The share of minority-specific advertising in the marketing budgets of automakers overall has increased to 25 percent so far this year from 18 percent last year, Spinella said.
DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler group has raised its budget on minority-focused marketing by 60 percent this year, CEO Dieter Zetsche told Reuters.
Ford Motor Co., which rolled out a big multicultural advertising campaign for the redesigned F-150 pickup in 2003, is focusing on the Internet this year to sell more vehicles to minorities.
Ford introduced a Web site that has vehicle brochures and other information in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese to persuade Asian-Americans to buy its vehicles. Ford also has a Spanish-language Web site for Hispanic consumers.
There is a definite link between the Hispanic community, the Internet and automotive sales, said Ford President Nick Scheele of the Web site.
GM holds an industry-leading 28 percent market share among minority car buyers, followed by Ford with 23 percent and Chrysler with 16 percent, according to CNW Marketing/Research. Toyota Motor Corp. ranks fourth with an 11 percent share.
But the Japanese automaker is stepping up its multicultural marketing, especially for new or redesigned vehicles like the 2005 Tacoma pickup, said Bob Carter, vice president of sales at Toyota's U.S. division.
Rising Toyota sales to Hispanics and blacks are causing some resentment among Detroit's automakers, who say they have a better record of encouraging diversity among their suppliers, dealerships and workers.
"I would see it as natural that African-Americans, and to some extent Hispanics as well, would rather have some sympathy for products of the Big 3, which is obviously not the case at this point in time," Zetsche said.
Chrysler, Ford and GM all do multibillion-dollars worth of business a year with minority-owned suppliers.
At Chrysler alone, Zetsche said the minority supplier business was three or four times larger than what Toyota does.
"(That) kind of shows the difference in commitment," he said.
Toyota has a strong commitment to diversity and is in the middle of a 10-year plan to increase the representation of minorities among its suppliers, employees and dealers, company spokesman Xavier Dominicis said.
"Our diversity effort speaks for itself," he added.