LOS ANGELES – It’s a sweeping story about three ambitious families; one Fresno, CA, ranch; heated passion; rivalry; hatred; destruction; and an extended line of Chevrolet cars and trucks.

In a stepped-up effort to reach Hispanic consumers, Chevrolet has signed on as lead sponsor of “El Talisman,” a new serialized TV drama, or telenovela, currently airing across the Spanish-language Univision Network. The brand also will feature its vehicles prominently throughout the show as well as on a dedicated promotional website and through social media.

Advertising industry watchers are calling the marketing deal a breakthrough integration strategy.

“The network is taking product placement to a new, reality-bending level with its latest soap, giving Chevrolet's vehicles a co-starring role,” writes Marc Graser in Variety magazine.

Over the 120-episode run of the show, which drew more than 5 million viewers during its Jan. 30 premiere, Chevy’s ’12 Silverado, Cruze, Sonic, Volt, Equinox, Suburban and a ’71 Cheyenne, nicknamed “La Viejita,” or “The Little Old One,” will be present, if not part of the action, during key points in the plotline.

“With the country’s burgeoning Hispanic population, any realistic growth strategy for the auto industry must include building connections with the Hispanic consumer,” Sara Hasson, vice president of Brand Solutions-Automotive for Univision Communications, tells WardsAuto.

“When it comes to purchasing automobiles, Hispanic purchase patterns are at virtual parity with non-Hispanics,” she says.

Hasson says data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Hispanics are projected to account for all growth for adults 18 to 49 years of age between 2010 and 2020.

According to Univision market research, during first-half 2011 the average base price of a new vehicle purchased by an Hispanic buyer was $26,588, while the U.S. average overall was $28,201.

However, Hispanics return to the new-vehicle market sooner, purchasing new vehicles after 35 months, while U.S. consumers as a whole wait 38 months.

Another study by TrueCar.com shows Chevrolet claimed 9.4% of all purchases by Hispanics in 2010, fourth behind Toyota, with 19.5%; Honda, 13.7%; and Nissan, 11.9%.

The brands with the fastest growth among Hispanic consumers age 18-49 during the same period were Buick, with a 78.6% year-over-year gain; followed by Hyundai, up 48.2%; and Cadillac, up 42%. Chevrolet saw 14.5% growth.

The same research says Chevrolet ranked 13th on the list of top brands among young Hispanic buyers in 2010, claiming 9% of that pie. The Camaro was the only Chevy that made the year’s top 33 models among the 18-49 Hispanic demographic.

“Hispanics differ dramatically from non-Hispanics in their culture, traditions and media consumption,” says Hasson. “With 78% of today’s Latinos choosing to speak Spanish at home, it is imperative for OEMs and dealers to understand that language is a powerful tool – it connects this valuable consumer to culture, community and country of origin.”

Data supplied by marketing research firm GfK claims most non-Hispanics view the vehicle- purchasing process simply as a transaction and a hassle, whereas Hispanics view it as an event, a proud celebration that should be shared with the family.

The study also shows Hispanics tend to rely on specific media sources when buying a new vehicle. For instance, 28% turn to Spanish-language TV ads.

In addition, 34% of Hispanic car buyers are likely to visit auto makers’ websites, compared with 15% of non-Hispanics. Up to six months prior to purchasing a vehicle, 43% of Hispanics, compared with 25% of non-Hispanics, used a mobile device to shop the Internet.

Whether or not Chevy’s extensive tie-ins to the “El Talisman” story ultimately give the brand the market boost it seeks or not, auto industry leaders generally “are recognizing they can’t deliver future sales growth without effectively reaching Latinos,” Hasson says.

“They are revving up sales and cultivating a loyal customer base, making Hispanic marketing a strategic business imperative.”