The changing face of the car industry

The car sector is going through a period of enormous change – in everything from product design to branding. Here, Patrick Burgoyne explores the wonders of a battery-powered future

‘Unboring the future.’ Any idea what that means? No, me neither, but it’s the line that Peugeot has decided is the one that’s going to persuade us to get behind its recent brand refresh. Car advertising, rarely a sector to quicken the creative pulse, has become a bewildering, charisma-free vacuum. Which is odd given that the industry is at the start of the biggest, most exciting transformation in its history.

With countries and manufacturers committing to a fossil-fuel-free future in ten years, seismic change is on the way. The flurry of recent digital-first rebrands reminds us that existing marques are totally reinventing the way they make and distribute their models, while new electric natives are grabbing market share at bewildering speed. The shift to electric vehicles is also transforming the infrastructure that supports car driving, as well as our attitudes towards what for so long has been such a key means of self-expression.

Hoping to get a handle on where all this is heading, I recently attended a Future of Cars Summit hosted by Tortoise, the ‘slow news’ organisation co-founded by former BBC News director and Times editor James Harding. Throughout the day on Zoom, policy experts, academics, journalists and representatives from interested parties thrashed out some of the key challenges the industry faces as it accelerates towards its battery-powered future.

What quickly became clear is that, unless hydrogen gets its act together mighty soon, the move to electric vehicles (EVs) is inexorable. It’s happening – it’s just a question of how and how quickly. Here’s the first meaty, exciting challenge for anyone working in brand communications – how to overcome consumer reservations about making the switch to electric.