A Pinch of Science Fiction in Automotive PR

Germany is not only the country of poets and thinkers; it is also known as a country of engineering excellence, premium cars and sophisticated car culture. Brands such as Mercedes, BMW, VW or Audi have been globally extremely popular for many decades, across many price ranges and cultures. But the automotive market is changing like hardly any other industry. Extremely fast innovation cycles, new competitors from other industries, disruptive business models and alternative mobility concepts require a new way of addressing this prestigious industry. Sounds like a lot of work is coming up for PR agencies working for automotive clients.

The car of the future is still in flux and it may well be that in a few years’ time, a car will look nothing like it does today. Will the currently overriding CASE megatrends – connected, autonomous, shared and electric – still be here? Or will new, totally different and groundbreaking car and mobility concepts show up? Maybe we will be living in some kind of utopia that is beyond everything that we are able to imagine today. Most likely in the future, there will be plenty of shared mobility transportation services, accessible to more than just one user. Vehicles, not just cars, might be autonomous, accident-free, and probably battery powered.

Disclosing the Invisible to the Visible

Though the future still seems to be quite distant, it already has a significant impact on your daily automotive-related PR work. Of course, there are countless definitions explaining in detail what Public Relations is, what it is used for and what tools should be utilized to successfully establish and maintain a reputable brand. But most of these definitions don’t explain what makes a PR campaign ultimately successful and why it in a lot of cases does not reach its goals. In my experience a successful PR campaign always contains a very specific individual flavor that makes its message stand out. Only by merging obvious and familiar measurements with some trendy, more elusive aspects, your campaign will be able to create something unique that touches your target group in a very distinct way.

When working e.g. with a client serving the traditional automotive industry and who is involved in designing components for traditional cars, powered by internal combustion engines, you should try to find this unique angle that links the established car concept to aspects of innovative mobility. Most people are fascinated by science fiction like predictions about the future and the way mobility will look like in the years to come. You can pimp a very traditional brand by highlighting some already existing, innovative car features such as intelligent smartphone integration services, a smart-watch that is able to start your car, et al. For clients involved in next-mobility trends it may work the other way round. By combining the best of both worlds in the right way and by using the right mixture you will be able to bridge the gap between established and next-generation car technology, helping clients and prospects to access the world of innovative mobility concepts more easily and with fun.

Turning the Car into a Feel-Good Zone

Let’s talk about the car design. Though the car of the future may still look familiar on the outside, inside its look will definitively change drastically. Right now we are living in the dawn of a new, completely assisted or autonomous era of vehicle technology and there is a high possibility that in the future the primarily functional interior design of today’s cars will be upgraded to a comfortable living area on wheels transforming drivers into passengers. While today’s motorists are sitting focused and concentrated behind the stirring wheel, the passenger of tomorrow could be relaxing in the back of the car and spend its time with eating, working, watching TV, etc.

Osram Opto Semiconductors, as a well-established company headquartered in Germany, is known as the global number 1 in automotive lighting for decades. In addition to exterior lighting, the company also designs LED solutions for ambient lighting that allows drivers to select their personal favorite colors for the interior lighting that turns the car into a feel-good zone that even will allow drivers to take its own individual light settings from one car to the other. Additionally, their light-based technology is the basis for a large variety of driving assistance and security systems as well as for automated driving. Another of our customers, VIA Technologies, has designed a new generation of vehicle security systems. Equipped with two cameras it is able to simultaneously create HD video footage from the driver’s perspective and record images of current road conditions. If needed the data can be transferred in real-time to a cloud, for further analyzation, thereby helping managers to improve the safety of the driver or increase efficiency by reducing operating costs.

Entering Car Fiction

Looking into the future of driving you may get the impression of entering a science-fiction-like scenario. Windscreens e.g. may no longer be essential for an autonomous driving car. Some creative designers already think about replacing them by panoramic screens which would be placed around the vehicle passengers and generate a perfect environment for an augmented or virtual reality experience.

Other suppliers, like the Japanese manufacturer Nissan, are trying to push the limits of the conventional driving experience using a futuristic “Invisible-to-Visible” (I2V) technology that creates an augmented reality scenario with overlapping inserted information (similar to HUD displays) and human-like virtual assistants or avatars. These assistants accompany the passenger during the journey and even talk to them, e.g. about the weather, the surroundings or other available, AI-based information.

Waiting for 2050

But when will these scenarios become reality? When will they arrive on our roads and in our cities and change the way we drive and travel? According to a study on autonomous driving by Prognos Research Institute for the German ADAC (German Automobile Club) it will still take years until the 5th level of automated driving will be established on public roads. According to forecasts, the proportion of new vehicles, in which the driver can completely turn away from the driving task on all motorways, will rise from 2.4 percent in 2020 to 70 percent in 2050 in the “most optimistic” case. As of 2030, cars with a city pilot, i.e. the ability to drive alone on the motorway as well as in the city, will gradually appear on the roads. But it will be not before 2040 that the majority of cars will be able to run from door to door completely autonomously.

This will still give us some time to work with our automotive clients to change the reputation of their brand. People love cars and adding a pinch of Science Fiction to your PR story could manifest as the magic angle that helps people to understand that next-mobility leads to a futuristic world with crazy cool technology that may turn our current reality concepts upside-down. It’s all about the future and the future starts now.


“A Pinch of Science Fiction in Automotive PR” – written by Brigitte Wehrmann.