Targeting African-Americans Could Boost Dodge Stock

The all-new '07 Dodge Nitro midsize SUV could play a critical role in raising awareness about Chrysler Group's volume brand, a California-based consumer research firm suggests. The auto maker is making a strong play for African-American buyers with TV ads. If those work as intended, the effect could ripple across all demographics, says Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Visions, which tracks

The all-new '07 Dodge Nitro midsize SUV could play a critical role in raising awareness about Chrysler Group's volume brand, a California-based consumer research firm suggests.

The auto maker is making a strong play for African-American buyers with TV ads. If those work as intended, the effect could ripple across all demographics, says Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Visions, which tracks consumer buying patterns and brand loyalty.

African-Americans have a higher percentage of buyers called innovators, Edwards tells Ward's.

In the car market, these buyers are attracted by product attributes such as bold styling and unique feature content, he adds. “And once they latch on to a product, what you see is the rest of America then begins to follow what they're doing.”

Consider the most recent market phenomenon, the hip-hop culture. Born in urban centers with high concentrations of African-American residents, and popularized largely by African-American artists, hip-hop has established itself in mainstream America.

Ford Motor Co. embraced this influence during the development of its Fusion sedan. Chief designer J Mays sought to reflect in the car a trait he termed “urban toughness.”

Similarly, the Nitro seeks to evoke the Dodge “street-smart” mantra, says its exterior designer, John Opfer.

“Dodge has done a great job working on its interest level,” says Edwards. “The advertising has been very interesting.”

TV spots for the all-new '07 Caliber small car have generated considerable buzz, playfully reflecting the brand's bold character. One Nitro ad originally was intended to hype the Caliber.

It depicts a Nitro crashing through the Earth's crust and tumbling through subterranean caverns populated by mythical creatures. Eventually, it arrives in China — without a scratch.

But will the Nitro campaign inspire trust? That's an element that has been lacking in the minds of consumers, Edwards says.

“If Dodge really wants the African-American community to buy into this vehicle, they're going to have to make sure there are enough things that will make up for that lack of trust in the Dodge name.”

Strategic Vision's 2005 research shows Dodge ranks seventh among the 10 brands most popular with African-American buyers. Nissan is first, while GMC is last.

Current research indicates little has changed this year, Edwards says.

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