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How The Motor Industry Communicators Association Can Help Communicators Navigate A Changing Landscape

Poppy McKenzie Smith

The PRCA has begun a partnership with communicators in the innovative and dynamic motor industry.  Their new Motor Industry Communicators Association (MICA) has formed during a pivotal transition for its automotive members.  MICA chair Poppy McKenzie Smith (pictured) explains the opportunities for communicators in other sectors offered by the partnership:

What new priorities is the motor industry embracing?
A strong industry body is especially needed to support a profession through times of great change. For motoring, the biggest change is new cars and vans being electric only within eight years.

The industry was already part of Europe’s aim to become the first major region to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In late 2020, the UK government declared the end of new cars and vans running solely on petrol or diesel by 2030– five years ahead of the EU’s mandate – and that all new vehicles will be emission-free by 2035.
The heavy good vehicle sector has similarly ambitious zero emission target dates – 2035 for trucks up to 26tonnes and 2040 for over 26 tonnes.

Connectivity and autonomous driving are other automotive areas of significant progress and potential.  Modems in vehicles already provide live vehicle health, security and usage data. Driverless cars continue to be tested in real-life pilots, to raise consumer trust and manufacturer commitment. Milton Keynes residents have begun 2022 able to summon a car which arrives controlled remotely, for normal use by the customer, before being collected remotely too.[1]

Electrified and connected cars are here already, making up an ever-increasing share of the new car market by rising 50 per cent year-on-year.  But they are not yet accessible by all, with cost and charging obstacles needing to be reduced along the road to 2030.

Electric vehicles cost more, and the payback in lower running costs has been estimated at up to seven years from new – dependant on model and use.[2]  The wider challenge, reaching far beyond the automotive sector, is to establish an infrastructure which provides uniform national coverage and can be accessed safely round the clock. 

What is MICA doing to help its members navigate this landscape?
When MICA asked prospective members from its community of PRs – for vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, after-market companies and associated agencies – what they would like from their new industry association founded last year, their top responses were targeted training and networking.  These support tools, delivered online if necessary, can help members to shape plans for story telling about electrification for today’s diverse range of media platforms and outlets. In an era of opportunity and uncertainty as the motoring world changes, hearing best practice and case studies from peers helps us to sharpen skills and better measure the return delivered by effective PR. MICA’s mentor scheme pairs our seasoned and experienced members with those new to our craft and nearer the start of their careers.

What’s the crossover with PRCA members?
Being the world’s largest PR professional body, PRCA’s membership includes sectors beyond automotive which are also affected by the 2030 electrification deadline.

Policy makers are involved in setting up the framework governing Clean Air Zones and other low-emission areas incentivising the market. Energy companies and charge point providers are installing the electric refuelling network.

All led by organisations with PRCA members in their communications teams, also facing challenges arising from the switch to electric.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is tracking charge point installation falling behind electrified vehicle growth.

The number of battery-electric and PHEV cars potentially sharing every charging point grew from 11 to 16 vehicles between 2019 and 2020. Only one new charger is being installed for every 52 cars sold – “a rate insufficient to improve the user experience,” says the SMMT.[3]

Britain’s ratio of plug-in vehicles places the country among the worst of the top 10 EV markets. At 16:1 we’re well behind the likes of the Netherlands (5:1) and France (10:1) but marginally ahead of Germany (17:1). South Korea (3:1) is best.

In the interests of broadening mutual understanding of the communications opportunities and pitfalls along the road to 2030, MICA would like to hear from and work with PRCA members representing local government, clean energy and other infrastructure stake holders.

During our first few months of operation, many communicators and agencies from outside automotive have expressed an interest in networking with MICA and joining its activities. To reflect our members’ electrification priority, this would best be done with fellow communications specialists impacted by the same transition. We look forward to hearing from you!

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