The recent announcement by Boris Johnson that the UK will ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars will require a huge shift in manufacturer communications writes Alistair Binks, Owner at Albion Languages

Boris Johnson’s pledge to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars in the UK by 2030 came as pleasant news to many, with the announcement forming just part of his government’s commitment to tackle climate change. New cars and vehicles running solely on these fuels will not be sold from 2030 onwards, leaving a ten-year challenge for car manufacturers across the globe who sell their vehicles on the UK market.

This announcement perhaps raises more questions than answers for manufacturers at this stage. While the sale of some hybrid cars will still be permitted, the switch to electric, sustainable vehicle options requires some serious thought from manufacturers about their designs, and not least, their communications.

Global car manufacturing communications

Marketing efforts by the big car brands are often well documented, but what many consumers don’t always consider are the wider communication efforts; servicing manuals, user guides and the localisation of many other texts for the different markets. After all, many car manufacturers operate on a global scale, carefully tailoring every brand communication to the culture and taste of local consumers.

While most big brands work ahead of themselves – often years in advance – having a jojned-up communication strategy is key to managing huge technology shifts such as this one. The move will involve compromise and cost for both manufacturers and consumers. Car manufacturing communications need to change to present a new ethos and new technology. So, what do car manufacturers need to consider?

electric car

Looking ahead: responsible car manufacturing communications

It is important to remember that the new rules would currently only apply in the UK. While the UK is often a major market for car brands, it is only a small part of a global car brand’s strategy and so it will be interesting to see how manufacturers go about communicating options for consumers.

There is no doubt that the changes brought about by environmental challenges and the need for sustainability create new jargon and buzzwords, and these will need to be effectively communicated. Any industry language will need to be debunked for consumers. The UK government and car manufacturers will need to communicate in close harmony to ensure messaging is consistent across the board. Consumers will want to see that a close relationship has been formed between policy makers and the industry to make sure that consumers are protected and change is implemented in a clear, easy to understand and timely manner.

While car manufacturers may see spiralling costs and a comparative revolution to the way they work in this relatively short timeline as a challenge, they will need to adapt to consumer attitudes and ensure they are seen as supporting this environmentally responsible initiative.

The car manufacturing industry is no stranger to regulations and rules, however, with realms of content to consider, such as user manuals, servicing guides, employee handbooks, marketing materials and websites all needing to be adjusted to reflect the changes. This will be no mean feat, but will be a solid investment as companies will be able to use this experience as a basis for similar changes in other countries, should similar regulations come into effect or manufacturers decide to alter their offerings in other markets.

Consumer car trends

In the interim period, it will be interesting to see how manufacturers respond. Will production lines of current petrol and diesel models simply grind to a halt? How will manufacturers marry the classic designs consumers know, trust and love with more sustainable running features?

We should also consider consumers – will drivers looking for a new vehicle prior to the changeover in 2030 decide they only want a sustainable option now? Many of the major car brands have loyal customers who have strong buy-in for their brand, and love specific models. Will carmakers decide to simply remodel existing vehicles into more sustainable options to retain brand loyalty?

Car manufacturers known for their wide model ranges will come under pressure to provide consumers with more options. One of the potential areas of growth could be leasing – will consumers looking for a new car opt to limit their commitment ahead of the regulation changes?

The potential cost implications also extend to consumers –sustainable options often come at a higher cost, which undoubtedly will be passed on to the consumer. Those looking to replace older models with more environmentally friendly ones may need financial support to do so. Would it be feasible to offer a similar model to the housing ‘Help to Buy Scheme’ to help consumers make the transition? While many questions remain, one thing is for sure; as the answers become clearer, manufacturers will need to respond with the right communications response to keep consumers on side.

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