The global pandemic has also hit the auto industry, which had to deal with a number of challenges, including chip shortages and general supply chain disruptions due to other supply issues. Car sales in North America dropped across the board for all manufacturers in all states. The two German car manufacturer VW and Mercedes-Benz also struggled with declining sales. BMW, on the other hand, saw an 8.4% increase in internal combustion vehicles cars and a 133% increase in electric-cars, with VW also enjoying a 95% increase when it comes to the electronic alternatives. Either way, digital marketing strategies are rightfully gaining strength. Meanwhile, all carmakers have expanded their profiles on social media to market not only their cars, but also their online content.
For good reason, as the global search requests for the best car and truck deals have increased 70% from 2020 to 2021. Finding the perfect vehicle is no easy task. It’s no surprise that buyers are looking for expertise and honest reviews, and in turn, are finding automotive influencers.
Car and motor journalist vs. influencer?
Motor journalists have always had to deal with certain prejudices or accusations. In 1997, for example, the German television magazine “Panorama” reported on the corruptibility and venality of automotive journalists. The public broadcaster criticized the so-called “champagne journalism”, which describes the unspoken interweaving of privileges for journalists through (luxury) trips, gifts or high-end permanent cars as a result of positive feedback. But these obvious favors are only the tip of the iceberg; direct influence through the placement or cancellation of advertisements also plays a role.
In episode 14 of their podcast “Die Hupe,” Sebastian Bauer and Clemens Gleich discuss allegations of corruption in motor journalism and the differences between car journalists and influencers.
Not only the journalistic department Motor and Auto, which is now economically declining as well, has to fight these allegations, because Auto-Influencers are accused of the same. Who would be able to remain objective when treated champagne and luxury cars ?, the accusation goes. The Swiss online magazine “radical” snubbed the technical features of test vehicles, because “anorexic authors in high heels” would not be able to understand anything about them anyway. How relevant or worth listening to the differentiating or constructive criticism of the two authors Peter Ruch and Fabian Mechtel is, however, remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, carfluencers can earn more than Formula 1 drivers do today. According to GoCompare.com, Australian-born Alex Hirschi, best known as “Supercar Blondie,” is the highest-earning carfluencer in the world.
The published figures are estimates based on a 2019 report from eMarketer, where an Instagram follower is worth an average of 0.0033p (0.00428 US cents) to an influencer. Consequently, annual income is determined based on the number and type of post, followers on different channels, and engagement rate.
The Carfluencer Rich List
Australian Alex (@supercarblondie) tops the top 3 of GoCompare’s list of top carfluencers. 10.1 million followers follow the self-proclaimed “girl with the cars” and thus sometimes exotic, but certainly luxurious cars on Instagram, as she joyrides about town.
Second place is held by Marcel Eris (@montanablack) with 3.2 million followers on Instagram. The German, unlike other Carfluencers, has used gaming live streams to win over his followers. However, his passion for expensive cars, which he has grown into a sizable collection, expands his audience, who particularly enjoy his reactions to the sounds and driving errors of the new supercars.
Meanwhile, drawing 3.2 million followers on Instagram, making him the unofficial third place, is American diesel driver Dave Sparks (@heavydsparks). His account is full of big trucks, big bikes, and food.
A study commissioned by Habbyymedia GmbH from the American company “HypeAuditor” publishes frightening results on fraud attempts by automotive Influencer on Instagram in Germany. A total of 4,980 identified as Carfluencers, 50% of which are said to be involved in fraud when it comes to for their actual reach. Especially micro-influencers buy followers, nano-influencers arrange comment pods or generally follow many follow/unfollow strategies that are prohibited by Instagram. The app responds to such attempts by reducing the reach of profiles that use third-party applications.
Automotive Influencer Marketing
A collaboration with influencers is still worthwhile, of course, despite the negative points highlighted in this post. After all, creators don’t generate a large base and following for no reason. They know what they’re doing and how to market themselves and their content.
Because buying a car is an important decision and a big investment for most people, they turn to people they trust = Influencers. By partnering with an automotive influencer(s), you connect your brand with a trusted viewpoint that builds credibility for your business.
38% of total car buyers are currently from Generation X , while Baby Boomers make up 32% and Millennials 23%. Overall, sales are increasing among 18- to 35-year-olds, and influencers are playing a major role in that.
Mercedes-Benz is a good example of successful influencer marketing campaigns in the automotive industry. For example, they market their G-Class with its own Instagram profile (@mercedesbenzggclass) and the hashtag #IconsofUnique. For example, one recent post reads “If your style is unique, your car shouldn’t be ordinary.”
Therefore, the motto, especially in light view of the reviews by of Motorjournalists as well as Carfluencers should be: Transparency creates trust and loyalty among your target group, both on the part of company and on part of the influencers!
Are influencers the new car dealers?
Finally, we should focus on another aspect of auto influencer marketing addressed by guest columnists Philipp Thurmann and Kiilian Thomaset at Springer Professional. The Corona crisis did not only accelerate digital marketing, but is also driving modern-day online shopping.
Chinese “shopping goddess,” journalist and blogger Becky Li made automotive marketing history in 2017 when she sold 100 turquoise Mini coopers at 36,000€ each within five minutes via the Chinese app We Chat. KOLs like Becky Li are in the hundreds of thousands in China and Korea, combining (the Western understanding of) influencers with the attributes of e-commerce merchants. Thurmann and Thomaset explain three trends that are driving this e-commerce evolution: digitization (of marketing), of course; the shift of online customer journeys; and the persuasive power of influencers. Finally, they believe that Becky Li would also be successful with a digital car dealership. That remains to be seen or attempted.