Toyota, Honda and Nissan are outpacing their American counterparts when it comes to selling cars to Latino consumers. (Courtesy Toyota)

Japanese auto companies winning the race for Hispanic consumers

Whether it’s political elections or consumer products, everyone wants to speak to U.S. Hispanics. But when it comes to the auto industry, Japanese auto makers are the ones standing above their Detroit counterparts, according to data from the auto market research firm Polk.

Toyota is number one with 18 percent of the Hispanic auto market, followed  by Honda and Nissan before Chevrolet and Ford join the mix. Marc Bland, head of diversity and inclusion at Polk, says the Japanese companies all have something in common.

“It’s a dedicated and consistent focus on the Hispanic market,” he says. “What they all have in common is respect. Respect for the consumer and going out of their way to support Latino activities in the communities they live, work and play in.”

Luis Rosero, a spokesman for Toyota, says their success is due to understanding Hispanic car buying preferences.

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“Buying a car is great fanfare in a Hispanic family,” he says, adding that the company has been number one with Latinos since 2004. “It’s a great thing to walk into Toyota or Lexus and see people who speak Spanish. Aside from buying a house or sending a kid to college, it’s one of the biggest investments a family can make.”

Bland says he saw this in action at Toyota dealerships in Los Angeles. “They gave you the option if you would prefer Spanish or English, so the first thing there is you have a choice,” he says. “That is respecting Hispanic consumers and culture.”

With the recession in the rearview mirror, Bland says car sales have been up. While Latinos made up 11 percent of the 11.1 million personal car sales in 2012, they outshined other groups when it comes to growth in 2012 compared to 2011.

From 2011 to 2012 car sales increased 14 percent, but car buying from Latinos grew an impressive 23 percent. In terms of luxury cars, Hispanics also outperformed other groups. While the luxury market was up 16 percent, Hispanic buying rose 25 percent.

“This ends the false stereotype that Hispanics don’t have money to buy luxury goods,” Bland says.

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