Among African-Americans, Toyota is the top auto brand, leading all others among new vehicle purchases last year. Specifically, says Southfield, Mich.-based market research firm Polk, new-vehicle registrations among these consumers reached 641,090. That number constitutes an increase of 11.5% over 2009, or 7.4% of all new vehicle registrations last year. Moreover, the firm says the African-American market volume increase was 68.6% greater than the non-ethnic market increase of just 6.8%.
The firm says the top five brands account for 60% of the African-American market, each with more than 10% share. Ford and Chevrolet joined Toyota to round out the top three. Honda is in fourth place, followed by Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Dodge, GMC and Volkswagen.
Brands that are seeing the most rapid growth among African-Americans are Buick, Hyundai, Kia, Cadillac, GMC and Infiniti, per Polk -- which says that with the exception of Cadillac, all grew faster in 2010 within the African-American market than overall. Buick saw a whopping 72.2% improvement versus 2009 in the number of new vehicles it sells to African-Americans. Hyundai saw a 53.2% improvement.
Marc Bland, product strategist at Polk, says Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet have succeeded in part by having dedicated agencies for the African-American market. "They have been able to admit that they don't know what they don't know," he says. "Toyota has a strong relationship with Burrell; Ford with Uniworld in Dearborn[, Mich.], and Chevy has Spike DDB. What these agencies bring is an innate knowledge of the culture, community, and trends."
Bland says Toyota has succeeded with African-Americans partly by introducing a youth and customization-focused brand, Scion -- "a car [brand] made for young people the way they want it, and Ford has good product: Mustang goes without saying. Taurus SHO is very popular among African-Americans. With Chevrolet, you have the new Camaro, then Malibu and Ford Fusion; all are popular vehicles [among African-Americans]."
Bland adds that Buick and Hyundai have succeeded both in product and ads, with Hyundai using grassroots efforts to promote style-forward vehicles like Genesis. He lauds Zafar Brooks, Hyundai's head of government relations and diversity outreach, for programs like its partnership with Focus: Hope, wherein the automaker gave 1,000 winter coats to kids in Detroit.
"He came to town during the auto show and directed that Hyundai effort. People remember that Hyundai for that, but also it gave Hyundai a chance to show urban consumers their cars. Two days later, they did same thing through a partnership with DMC [Detroit Medical Center] on behalf of Hyundai, so everyone -- surgeons and nurses and staff -- got to see the Genesis."
Bland says the success of Chevrolet, Buick and Hyundai suggest a common link -- Joel Ewanick. "He seems to be in touch with the multicultural consumer. He helped put Zafar in place and now has brought some of that thinking to brands like Buick. I don't want to give one man all the credit, but there is that common factor."
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the African-American population will grow 12% by 2020 and nearly 25% from current levels by 2030.