Breaking language barrier for sales success

Audi Dominion in San Antonio is one of the top-performing Audi dealerships in the country, averaging more than 100 new vehicles and 170 used vehicles sold a month.

Martin Silva, the dealership’s general manager, attributes that success to building a staff that reflects the Alamo City’s diverse population and cultural backgrounds.

“When you live in a community like that and decide to go into any kind of retail business, the easiest decision is to provide opportunities to anyone who wants to put their head down and hustle and grind in an industry that’s competitive — but also to make sure that our customer has someone they can relate to at the dealership level when it comes to sales, technicians and service advisers.”

San Antonio is one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S., and Latino residents account for much of it.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, two-thirds of San Antonio’s 1.45 million residents in 2021 were Latino or Hispanic, and about 14 percent of the market’s population was born outside the U.S.

That means there are a significant number of San Antonians who are most comfortable speaking Spanish, particularly when making a decision about buying a new vehicle, Silva said. Roughly a fourth of Audi Dominion’s 180 employees are fluent in Spanish.

“Is speaking Spanish a prerequisite? No, it’s absolutely not,” Silva said. “But we want as many of our clients as possible to be comfortable when coming in, and seeing someone that’s able to communicate with them clearly is so important to that.”

The philosophy has led to higher customer retention and satisfaction scores, as customers return for maintenance or for their next purchase, Silva said.

But it goes beyond speaking Spanish.

Silva said his favorite thing to ask job candidates for an open position is to tell him a story about how they’ve had to overcome a challenge in their life by talking to strangers. It’s a question that tells Silva how comfortable that person is when talking with someone who might be different from them.

“Our clients are going to have a wide range of questions, needs, problems and concerns, and they’ll need to seek direction,” he said. “We need to have people who are comfortable with that. The diversity of our clientele shouldn’t be something we shy away from, but something that we embrace.”

The dealership also regularly produces a Spanish-language infomercial detailing the inventories of Audi Dominion, as well as that of Cavender Toyota.

Audi Dominion and Cavender Toyota are part of Cavender Auto Group, which operates 10 new-vehicle dealerships in the area.

The infomercial, broadcast on Spanish-language TV channels, is produced so that potential customers know before they come in that someone can speak with them in Spanish about a vehicle purchase.

“We wanted to be at the forefront in our community, making sure our Spanish-speaking population knew there was an option,” Silva said.

Other dealership employees reflect the broader diversity of the San Antonio region, particularly with regard to its Asian and Middle Eastern populations.

The region is also home to several military bases and boasts a large veteran population.

“The best way we know how to perform is to make sure our staff reflects the community at large,” he said, “and that means all cultures.”

Wheel-E Podcast: The top electric bike stories of 2022

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd, and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power, The Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide and The Electric Bike Manifesto.

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Nissan Z SUV, Nio ES8, Cadillac Goddess: The Week In Reverse

Nissan showed a student-built Z SUV, Nio revealed its redesigned ES8, and Cadillac confirmed the return of its Goddess logo. It’s the Week in Reverse, right here at Motor Authority.

In what was a quiet week, Nissan showed a one-off design blending elements from the latest Z sports car with the second-generation Murano SUV. The odd concoction was a project of students at the Nissan Automobile Technical College in Japan.

Chinese EV brand Nio revealed two vehicles. One was a coupe-like SUV called the EC7, and whose arrival means Nio’s lineup now has seven distinct vehicles. The other was a redesign of the ES8, Nio’s first mainstream vehicle. Both vehicles feature a battery that can be swapped in seconds at a Nio battery station.

Cadillac will soon revive its Goddess logo, which the automaker used for hood ornaments on various vehicles built from 1930 to 1956 and briefly on the 1959 Eldorado Brougham. This time the logo will appear on several trim pieces in the Celestiq flagship EV.

Volkswagen announced it will use the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show in January to present its next electric vehicle. The vehicle is expected to be a mid-size sedan previewed earlier this year by the ID.Aero concept car. Prototypes for the sedan, which may be called an ID.6 or ID.7, have previously been spotted testing.

Gemballa may have built its reputation on wild upgrades for a range of Porsche vehicles, but the company is now working on its own supercar. The car is promised for launch in 2024 with more than 800 hp, and this week we saw a new teaser sketch of the exterior.

Baidu, begin driverless taxi tests in Beijing

Baidu Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp.-backed startup Pony. ai said on Friday they been granted the first licences to test fully autonomous vehicles without safety operators as a backup in Beijing.

Baidu and said they would begin testing 10 driverless vehicles each in a technology park developed by the Beijing government as a step toward commercial robotaxi services in China’s capital.

Beijing-headquartered Baidu, which generates most of its revenue from its internet search engine, has focused on self-driving technologies over the last five years as it looks to diversify.

It started to charge fees for its robotaxi service Apollo Go last year. It has predicted a robotaxi ride would eventually cost about half as much as one in a commercial car with a driver. The company said it would add another 200 robotaxis to its network across China in the coming year.

Apollo Go, which operates in Wuhan and Chongqing without a safety driver, delivered a total of 1.4 million driverless rides by end of the third quarter, Baidu has said.

Rival, which has operations in China and the United States, has been testing autonomous drive systems in Guangzhou, where it operates a taxi service. It is also testing autonomous drive vehicles in California and Arizona, where it employs safety drivers in the cars as a precaution.

While Chinese companies are pushing for self-driving cars, automakers outside China have retreated from the ambitious rollout schedule predicted a few years ago and regulatory roadblocks have appeared.

Tesla’s “Full Self Driving” system requires a human behind the wheel ready to take control, three years after CEO Elon Musk predicted the company was on track to deliver a fleet of a million robotaxis.

Tesla has been under criminal investigation in the United States over claims that the company’s electric vehicles can drive themselves.

Cruise, General Motors Co.’s, robotaxi unit, has said it plans to add thousands of autonomous vehicles in the coming year and to expand its service across San Francisco and other U.S. cities.

U.S. auto safety regulators said earlier this month they had opened a safety investigation into the autonomous driving system used by Cruise after incidents where the vehicles braked inappropriately or became immobilised.

In October, Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group shut down their shared self-driving startup, Argo AI, after concluding that the mass deployment of a commercial autonomous drive system would take more time and money than the companies predicted when they joined forces in 2019.

In March, agreed to repair a version of its autonomous driving software in the United States after an informal inquiry by the National Highway Traffic Safety concluded a defect had caused a test vehicle to crash into a traffic median in California.

Cepton’s CES plan: Show investors lidar tech is ready for prime time

Lidar company Cepton is headed to CES in Las Vegas to demonstrate it’s not just a speculative Silicon Valley play but rather a company with technology and contracts that offer sustainable value.

Cepton’s value proposition comes from the fact General Motors is a customer and will put lidar sensors in nine of the automaker’s vehicles starting in 2023. The GM contract prompted the San Jose, Calif., company to open an office in suburban Detroit to serve as its automotive business hub.

Lidar, which stands for “light detection and ranging,” is a sensor technology that creates a map of the environment around it. The technology is considered an important component for automated driving and fully autonomous vehicles.

Over the past two years, when the cost of capital was cheap, Cepton and other lidar companies went public through a special purpose acquisition company. But the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes and geopolitical tensions have slowed the flow of capital to auto technology startups. New investment in mobility technology startups dropped by 79 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2022, according to financial services firm PitchBook.

“There was a great economic expansion in the past few years, so everybody was enthusiastic, and then whether it is inflation or the Ukraine war, all of these things happening have caused investors to change their mindset,” Cepton CEO and co-founder Jun Pei told Automotive News. “And they really are looking at the value that you’re creating in the business operation, and that’s actually what’s happening in the last six to nine months.”

Lidar companies have had a tough go over the past two years with Ouster and Velodyne merging. AEye, a lidar company backed by financial services giant Cantor Fitzgerald, had its valuation slip 25 percent to $1.5 billion from $2 billion after a merger last year with a Cantor special purpose acquisition company.

Cepton, founded in 2016, won a contract from GM in 2021 to supply the automaker with advanced driver-assist systems. The contract is expected to bring Cepton $250 million in revenue. Japanese lighting supplier Koito, an early investor in Cepton, is licensing the company’s technology for installation into GM’s vehicles. Koito has the technical and manufacturing capability to install Cepton’s lidar technology, which looks like a square with two lights that is embedded in the headlight.

At CES, Cepton will display a Ford F-150 outfitted with its lidar technology. It will be the first time a headlamp installed with Cepton’s lidar technology by Koito will be publicly displayed. But the demonstration does not signal a Cepton deal with Ford, Pei said.

Cepton is in discussions with multiple automakers about 2023, but nothing has been finalized, Pei noted.

“I feel confident that we’re going to stand out in this industry, eventually providing the value to the investors that will really factor into our stock performance in the long run,” Pei said. “I’m not so deterred by the current fluctuations in the marketplace.”