In COVID-19 Crisis, Localization is More Crucial than Ever for Auto industry

Let’s be candid. Q2 2020 will not be a time when people will be rushing to showrooms and springing for that sporty convertible or comfy sedan. Gas prices may be plunging, but few in the coronavirus pandemic crisis are thinking much about travel or even commuting. During the outbreak, most are not thinking of breaking out new wheels. The last thing they are longing for is that new-car smell.

That said, this is a time when the US auto industry, in both retail and manufacturing, should be preparing for, the day after. Sooner or later, there will come a recovery period when pent-up demand for new wheels will be released. One idea is to seek out translation services to localize websites and social media for target markets that can help businesses recover at that time. When it comes to cars, timing is everything.

The Future Growth of the Auto Industry Is With Multilingual Markets

Cars purchased by Spanish-speakers in the U.S have doubled in the past decade since 2010, according to Dealer Marketing, increasing 116%. Moreover, according to Univision, new car purchases by Hispanics are expected to increase by 8% in the next 5 years, compared to a decline of 2% in the overall market. Driving this trend is the growing income levels of the Hispanic population and the relatively young demographic of that group. Not only that, but 50% of Hispanic youth also buy a luxury vehicle as their first car.

This tendency has attracted the attention of leading automakers, MediaPost reports. Many car manufacturers have dedicated marketing departments targeting this demographic with TV spots and social media tailored to Hispanic tastes. Toyota, Honda, and Mazda have been pacesetters – but Ford is learning too, as exemplified by its successful video campaign for F-150 pickups celebrating “everyday heroes in Hispanic communities.”  A study confirms that Hispanic consumers respond overwhelmingly to campaigns recognizing their cultural distinctiveness.

The question arises as to whether now when so much is shut down, could be a clutch time to localize auto websites and social media to better serve Spanish consumers. Localization, after all, is an online activity that can be managed from home, requiring no face-to-face meetings. It can be carried out with a translation company, a dedicated localization agency, with freelancers and even – with caution and within limits – by machine translation. Here’s how to get started. ¡Vamonos!

Distinguishing Localization and Translation Services

Before delving into the how-to of a localization process, it’s important to distinguish localization from translation. Translating a website or marketing content is a core activity from one language to another focuses only on the need to translate English to Spanish, but localizing the site involves a broader set of adaptions, such as adjusting currency and measurement units but also cultural sensitivity to content preferences. For marketing within the borders of the US, currency and measurement units are not relevant, but awareness of the nuances of Spanish most certainly is.

A successful localization process involves marketing translation but also adaptation of the content to a Hispanic audience. There is a famous story, now considered something of an urban legend, in which Chevrolet allegedly failed in launching the Nova in Mexico because “No va” in Spanish means “doesn’t go.” Whether true or false or somewhere in between, the tale points to the importance of linguistic sensitivity in naming, branding and marketing content generally.

Many translation agencies provide localization as well as interpretation services. This is a natural extension, of course, since translating from one language to the other is an essential part of the localizing process. Interpreting usually applies to spoken language in a live setting. Website localization is in part a technical challenge of adapting the site code to accommodate one or more additional languages. Often one company will do the coding while another will supply the linguistic adaptation.

Choosing a Translation and Localization Services Provider

Universal translation services and localization agencies are less affected by the current health crisis than others. Their industry is largely virtualized, operated remotely and outsourced to worldwide teams via the internet. Therefore, you can expect that the availability of services in this sector will be largely unaffected by local shutdowns. As in most things, you can start your search for localization partners by using those keywords together with others like “automotive” or “Spanish”. This will ensure that candidates have expertise in the language and the industry.

If it’s website localization you are seeking, you should merely indicate the website address and a brief description of the mission. Typically you can expect a response within a few hours, even in these disruptive days. The response will typically include a price-quote and a timetable. See out 5-7 initial candidates and then narrow that to 2-3 finalists. Follow up with clarifications about the process, personnel, and delivery. Rates in this industry are typically pegged to a per-word rate: while this is straightforward enough when translating documents, localizing a website is more complex. You should also clarify whether there is a guarantee included: reputable providers will fix any error found in their work, even after delivery and nominal approval. The period of this warranty ranges from a month to a year, the longer the better.

Considering Freelance and Machine Translation Options

If your budgets are tight – and whose isn’t these days – you may also wish to consider turning to freelance services or even free software translators. The former can find a freelance marketplace like Upwork and The latter you can find online at Google Translate, Microsoft Translator or DeepL.

While a Spanish translator can be had for a fraction of the rate of a translation agency – a rule of thumb might be one-half to one-third the price –this option will take more direct management on your part. And you may have no assurance of quality assurance for the translation. One option is to hire two translators – one to assure the quality of the other and provide a backup in case of sickness or unavailability, a concern in these uncertain days. Technical localization can be outsourced to a web services company.

Resist the temptation to rely too heavily on machine translation. While the quality of these AI-driven software bots has improved in recent years, they are still no match for expert human translation. The risk of embarrassing and culturally insensitive translations is just too high to risk. As GM may (or may not) have learned with the Chevy Nova, that just doesn’t go!

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