As a new Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA)’s Automotive Public Relations Council (APRC) Young Professionals member, I recently attended the OESA fourth quarterly meeting on October 22, 2014 to learn more about what’s to come in automotive manufacturing and how that impacts the public relations side of the industry.
Presenters at the meeting included Steve Kinkade, Manager, National Media Relations, Honda North America, Inc., and Charles Chesbrough, Senior Principal Economist of IHS Automotive. IHS Automotive is a company that forecasts for the industry, in addition to developing market information, competitive analysis and strategic tools for OEMs, suppliers and financial stakeholders.
Chesbrough in particular shared many details about where the automotive industry is at currently and where it’s going. Here are some stand-out findings from his presentation:
- Fact: The projected 2014 automotive annual sales is currently set to project $16.4 million; the forecast has not reached this number since around 2006.
o PR Interpretation: This is an exciting time of growth in the automotive industry. It’s important for PR pros to tell this story from a corporate perspective as well as a manufacturing perspective.
- Fact: China is proving to have the most significant global sales in 2014. For comparison, in 2021 North America is projected to account for 31% of sales, whereas China is projected to account for 39% of sales.
o PR Interpretation:PR departments need to being trying to reach the Chinese market in order to attract an audience that is buy-crazy right now.
- Fact: OEMs are continually growing globally.
o PR Interpretation:As OEMs continue to have a more global focus there needs to be a PR focus on having consistent branding and messaging worldwide.
- Fact: Automotive sales are currently higher than consumers sentiment ratings, meaning there is room for more sales as opinions are becoming increasingly more positive.
o PR Interpretation: There is no time like the present… It’s time to focus on telling the stories from a consumer-focused angle so that sentiment continues to increase and more people are compelled to purchase a car and possibly become brand loyal. An up-market is also a good time to start looking at those backburner items that weren’t as urgent when the economy was down. What could use a refresh/face lift? Is there anything worth revisiting or re-introducing?
- Fact: There is a possibility for a slight recession around 2021 for US light vehicle sales.
o PR Interpretation: Being proactive is key here. Knowing that a slight sales recession is coming, it is the duty of the PR team to remain diligent in communicating to consumers the value of vehicles, particularly those in the light segment. E.g. Letting the public know what new ‘must-haves’ are on the way and what research/innovative thinking it took to develop them to make consumers aware of the benefits to them… The key is to do this BEFORE 2021; be proactive not reactive.
All of these factors will affect the way automotive public relations runs, whether it be in-house or through an agency. Why? Because automotive trends determine how PR pros should be handling current affairs, whether that means newsletters, media relations, e-blasts, social media etc. Knowing what story is important/newsworthy to tell is key to getting the right audiences’ attention... Which is why it was very eye-opening to get a peek into the future at this meeting.
What trends do you predict for 2015 in the automotive PR world?