Latinos in the Automotive Industry
story BY: VALERIE MENARD
The auto industry is officially back in black. Sales fell below 10 million during the Great Recession but according to Business Insider, sales in 2015 of 17.5 million vehicles set a new benchmark, besting the last record sales year of 2000 with 17.4 million vehicles sold.
Latinos bought many of these vehicles, particularly from Honda and Toyota. Both brands received the Diversity Volume Leadership Award this year given by the National Association of Minority Automotive Dealers and IHS Automotive. Based on new vehicle registrations of more than 13 million women, minorities, and millennials, the Toyota Corolla won for top overall volume leader among Latinos, the Lexus IS won for top selling luxury vehicle among Latinos, and the Honda Accord for top-selling vehicle to ethnic millennials.
Ford is the leaders in truck sales to Latinos with the F-Series. While Latinos clearly share the same love affair with the car as most Americans, they also play a role in vehicle production. From Torrance to Detroit, Latinos play a role in what products are available for consumers, making decisions about how to market to Latino consumers, as well as providing opportunities for these companies to give back to the Latino community.
Here's a snapshot of just a few Latinos working behind the scenes in the auto industry.
Senior Director Sales Operations Infiniti USA
In 2012, Nissan overtook General Motors as the top-selling brand in Mexico. Much of the credit went to then president of Nissan Mexicana, Jose Muñoz. Shortly after this coups, Muñoz was appointed executive vice president, of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and when constructing his new team, he selected several who worked with him in Mexico, including, Claudia Márquez.
The former marketing director for Nissan’s Mexican and Latin American markets, she became senior director of Sales Operations, Infiniti USA, in April 2015. In this role, Márquez is responsible for sales operations, strategy, customer experience, and aftersales.
The Mexican native brings a wealth of knowledge to the job with more than 20 years of experience in the automotive industry. Her career began in 1995 at BMW where she served as regional operations manager. Márquez holds an associate’s degree in administration from Alexander von Humboldt German School and a bachelor’s degree in marketing and international commerce from University La Salle in Mexico.
Nissan maintains a twelve percent market share among Latino car buyers, the third largest of all car brands. It will be interesting to see if Márquez can expand that loyalty to Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand.
The Latino Touch
Senior Group Manager Product Planning Hyundai Motor America
Did you spot a Hyundai Veloster on the road and it made you look twice? Brandon Ramírez, senior group manager of product planning at Hyundai Motor America certainly hopes so. Responsible for leading product development and planning, market launches and life-cycle management for all Hyundai products in the United States, he plays an integral role in what appears on the road from Hyundai.
Ramírez joined Hyundai in 2004 as the small car product manager overseeing the Accent, the Elantra and Veloster. The California-native who grew up east of Los Angeles admits that where he can, he will add features with Latino appeal, like the nineteen-inch wheels he put on the Hyundai Tucson, not just on the top-of-the-line model, but on the Tucson Sport as well.
“Growing up in Chino and LaVerne, I saw how my Latino neighbors took pride in their cars, especially on the outside,” he shares. “Putting special tires on an affordable model makes it more appealing and more like the ones I saw in the Inland Empire.”
He’s also chairman of the newly formed Latino employee resource group, Amigos Unidos. One of the group’s first initiatives included co-sponsoring the Día de los Muertos celebration in Whittier.
The Art of the Deal
Executive Director US Sales Ford and Lincoln
David Mondragón began his 25-year career at Ford in an entry-level administrative job at the Edison, N.J. Assembly Plant. Since then, he has held a variety of leadership roles within sales and marketing.
“I’ve accumulated quite a collection of outstanding moments while working for Ford, but that very first job in administrative support at the plant was probably one of my most important experiences,” he shares. “I learned that every member of the team has the potential to contribute, no matter what title comes with their job description.
As executive director of U.S. sales for Ford and Lincoln, he oversees all field sales and distribution related matters for both carmakers, strengthening the distribution channel and improving dealer profitability while also improving employee and dealer satisfaction.
As a Latino leader, he’s a member of the Ford Hispanic Network internal resource group. From sales and marketing to his community involvement, Mondragón strives to represent Latinos at Ford and Ford in the Latino community.
“At work and at play, hard work, good sportsmanship, team work, and a positive attitude are valuable lessons, ideals that I share with both my family at home and my family at Ford,” he says.
She's Going Places
Group Vice President Hispanic Business Strategy Group Toyota Motor North America
Chances are Latinos attending a national conference for the National Council of La Raza, U.S, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce or other Latino national non-profits will encounter Patricia Salas-Pineda.
As group vice president of the Hispanic Business Strategy Group at Toyota Motor North America, she is the highest-ranking Latino executive at Toyota North America, specifically focused on improving and strengthening Toyota’s relationship with the Latino community.
“I feel very grateful to have had such a successful career at Toyota,” Pineda says. “It has been a wonderful career journey.”
While her career at Toyota spans 30 years, the California-native admits that her initial career goal involved law. She earned a JD degree from the University of California at Berkley and was initially hired by Toyota for her legalese, becoming one of the first Latino general counsels in Corporate America. Pineda has steered Toyota’s philanthropy toward mostly Latino initiatives.