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Hispanics No Longer An Afterthought For Carmakers


November 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001
THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Crooner Enrique Iglesias, singer/actress Thalia and pop group Ozomatli soon will be singing the praises of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products.

DaimlerChrysler is just the latest automobile manufacturer to focus on the growing Hispanic populace by designing special television commercials and print ads. Ford, Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet are already veterans in the Hispanic-oriented ad market.

DaimlerChrysler's new crop of Spanish language commercials is set to debut by the end of the month. Iglesias introduces the song Hero in a spot for the all-new Jeep Liberty; Thalia sings Amor a la Mexicana in a spot for the 2002 Dodge Caravan minivan; and Ozomatli sways to the Ritmo de Miami (Rhythm of Miami) in a spot for the 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

``Today, we fully appreciate the fact that Latin culture has become `cool' in so-called mainstream America, and that that `coolness' is also extending beyond our boundaries,'' Jim Schroer, executive vice president of global sales and marketing for DaimlerChrysler, said during a visit to the South Florida International Auto Show.

Instead of translating English-language commercials into Spanish, DaimlerChrysler will translate Hispanic-based ads into English for the general market audience.

``We want to help celebrate the infusion of Hispanic culture into American society,'' Schroer said. ``And what better way to begin than by showing non-Hispanic Americans the seamless interplay of the most American of all manufactured goods, automobiles, with Hispanic-Americans?''

While some are entering uncharted territory, others have had an active presence in the Hispanic market for years.

Ford, for instance, awarded its Hispanic account to Miami-based Zubi Advertising in 1996. Five years ago, Ford launched, a comprehensive website in Spanish.

``It's a segment you cannot ignore,'' said Tim Swies, executive vice president at Zubi's Detroit office. ``If you think you can cover the Hispanic market through your general market advertising, you have your head in the sand.''

At 35.3 million -- a 58 percent increase in the last decade -- Hispanics now make up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, the second-largest minority group in the country. Hispanics' buying power has been estimated to be between $425 billion and $630 billion. Reports indicate that more than 50 percent of Hispanics use the Internet.

For years Zubi has been designing Hispanic-specific ad campaigns for Ford. Some of the spots have even run as general market ads in areas like Miami, Los Angeles and South Texas, where the general market is predominantly Hispanic.

``Everything we have done for the Hispanic market has always been from scratch,'' Swies said. ``It's a powerful market.''

For the past few years, Swies noted, four major car manufacturers have had a commanding presence in marketing to Hispanics: Ford, Honda, Toyota and Chevrolet. Toyota Motor Sales, USA, recently launched -- a Spanish-language version of its website. Others like Hyundai and Kia have recognized the market's relevance and are also allotting considerable resources to tapping it.

``These are the players who take the market seriously,'' Swies said. ``They recognize the market as a viable business opportunity.''

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