Well Lockdown 2.0, or if you live in Wales Lockdown 2.5, is underway and highlights how differently the Coronavirus is being tackled.

Strictly speaking, only essential travel is being permitted whether you live in Wales, England or Scotland and it’s been interesting to see how motor manufacturer press departments have responded. 

Some implented a complete ban on events and press demonstration loans, others postponed events or went on-line with them and a few have managed to keep going with a lot of precautions in place but endeavoured so far as possible to keep operating.

The fact that those who kept the events going and press demonstrations rolling have seen much more exposure for their brands is to be expected and will reap benefits in the public eye. 

The All-New Kia Sorento launched between the coronavirus lockdowns

Whether this exposure can be turned into sales is, however, more of a challenge as dealership have also done their best but been seriously challenged to get people into their cars or parting with their money. 

It has also seen the introduction of more, or ramping up of more, buy-on-line programmes with the usual proviso that prices are non-negotiable. Clever ploy as it seems to remove the buyers’ opportunity to haggle. 

But the web is a wonderful thing and you can easily shop around for the deal to suit you and find the best price and service.

It has been much the same for the motor manufacturers too with the emergence of what has been called the “virtual influencer” and shopping around for favourable coverage.

Now many will have over recent years become familiar the term “influencer”, a modern take on what motoring journalists have been doing for years, in any case before on-line social media was invented.

To be seen as up to date and ‘with in’ some PR executives have turned to influencers to cover their products and events and while this may be perfectly acceptible where no experience in analysis or critique is needed it is surely a disservice to their bosses and buying customers who really want to get a considered, valued, accurate and fair report. To many its all about “hits”, never mind the quality of the writing or the understanding it has among those actually buying a car or van as opposed to the spotty 12 year old sitting in a bedroom and merrily clicking away on images of any sort, including cars.

However, the influencer now seems to have matured in some markets to the “virtual influencer”, which is surely a contradiction in itself. How can one affect the other either way if they don’t exist in real life? 

In fact it is doubted if the VI actually exist or are just a mocked up mutation in a marketeer’s mind which is created to sooth the sentiments and sell the idea if not the actual engineering of a car. 

This is a sort of artificial intelligence which is unproven and which ironically might just do way with the need for marketeers anyway as they are in this scenario the middle men or women and an expensive filling anyway. 

It’s all become very mystifying and full of mumbo-jumbo, far more so than many road-testers can or would wish to write in a review. A few very long-standing motoring publications and writers still provide praiseworthy pieces and these surely carry more gravitas than the new generation of “virtual influencers”. 

There are some who have been around almost as long as the car itself or certainly the mass market for them and who do not suffer the outages we see on social media and can be held to explain or account much more readily.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts

Robin is the longest serving chairman of The Western Group. He’s been vice chairman or chairman for over ten years and oversees the annual Western Group PR Driving Day each summer assisted by the group committee and supported by group members.

He contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.

Robin specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.

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