Automakers are intensifying their pursuit of Hispanic car buyers in the U.S., and for one big reason: That's where the growth is.
In fact, Hispanic consumers could well be the auto industry's leading growth engine for the next 20 to 30 years, many industry executives and marketing experts believe.
In a period of booming new-vehicle sales, Spanish-speaking or Hispanic culture-identifying buyers are crucial to automotive brands' success. Last year, Hispanic buyers delivered 96 percent of Ford and Chevrolet's combined year-over-year retail sales growth, 33 percent of Nissan's, 35 percent of Toyota's and 100 percent of Honda's, according to IHS Automotive's Polk market data unit.
Total industry retail sales increased 5.9 percent last year, outpacing 2013 results by 921,636 cars and light trucks. But retail sales to Hispanic consumers rose 15 percent, contributing more than 250,000 sales to that increase, according to IHS.
And it is happening not just in those states where Hispanic demographics have always been strong, such as California, Texas and Florida, but increasingly in the Midwest and everywhere else.
"You just can't ignore it anymore," says Fred Diaz, Nissan's senior vice president for U.S. sales & marketing and operations. "There are more than 50 million Hispanics living in the United States, and they're driving the growth. It's going to become a bigger focus of what we're doing."
Toyota on top
The "Big Three" brands of Hispanic-market sales -- Toyota, Nissan and Honda -- are leading the hunt. Honda officials have been meeting with dealers around the country this spring to emphasize the urgency of marketing to Spanish-speaking communities in their cities. Nissan recently helped some of its most successful retailers from Mexico open dealerships in major U.S. cities to improve the brand's ties to Hispanic consumers.
Toyota has ranked as the top-selling brand among Hispanic consumers for the past 10 years, according to Polk data. The automaker has created a dedicated corporate department -- the Hispanic Business Strategy Group -- to direct Toyota, Scion and Lexus to greater prominence among U.S. Hispanic consumers.