automotive KOLs

Like many industries this year, the automotive industry was rocked by the pandemic. Additionally, politically charged trade agreements like the USMCA in North America and the uncertainty of Brexit have taken their toll on the industry. This key opinion leader list offers insight!

In good times and bad, it’s smart for brands to keep up with the industry voices that play the largest role in shaping the outcome of events. In that spirit, we’ll take a look here at the automotive industry’s key opinion leader (KOL) list with a focus on:

  • How KOLs are shaping the competitive understanding of the automotive space
  • Exploring the conversations around our top five key opinion leaders

And here are some facts and statistics surrounding the condition of the automotive industry this year that sets the stage for our KOL discussion:

  • According to Statista, global sales of passenger cars are expected to only reach 60M units in 2020, down from a high of nearly 80M in 2017.
  • S. automotive sales volume is down 10% in Q3 compared to 2019. In a normal year that’s a bleak figure, but in 2020 it’s a welcome reprieve over being down 34.1% in Q2.
  • Governments and environmental agencies are enacting stricter emission laws and standards in response to heightened environmental concerns, which has thusly prioritized the automotive industry’s growing focus on electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

With that, let’s jump in and see what competitive intelligence we can pull from the automotive space.

key opinion leader list brand guide

KOLs Inform Competitive Understanding of Automotive Space

The automotive industry has its hands full this year just like many other industries. Sales are expected to be down 20 million units compared to 2017’s peak industry high yet innovation continues to be pushed in the direction of hybrid and fully electric vehicles by consumers thirsty for clean energy and sustainability.


Since we’ve been doing a series on finding key opinion leaders in specific categories, we’ll jump into the automotive sector to find its KOLs and the conversations that matter.

As you can see below, there are many disconnected conversations going on simultaneously in the auto industry; with the larger narratives loosely clung together and a host of sub-conversations hanging on the margins.


There’s a lot to unpack in the conversation at first glance, but finding the key opinion leader narratives can really help zoom in quickly to the industry-shaping topics that matter most. And Quid Apps is a handy tool to help us do just that.

A quick search for automotive industry KOLs reveals a list of the movers and shakers in the space – of which we’ll discuss the top five.


How to Filter for Key Opinion Leader Lists

Filtering our auto industry network map just for articles that explicitly mention our key opinion leader conversation reveals entries almost exclusively populating the UK car industry and coronavirus spooks European auto industry topic clusters.

Article titles in these two clusters reveal an industry in upheaval from both the pandemic and Brexit. They cite job cuts, trade deal needs, slumping sales and how Tesla’s success in Europe caught the industry off guard. One even calls it Carmageddon.


With a list of our KOLs and some of the most pressing topics within the broad industry conversation under our belt, we ran a targeted analysis of our key opinion leaders to ascertain share of voice in the industry.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk leads the pack here while the graphic shows us the differences in conversational topics.


Stacking the bar chart gives us a better view into each KOL’s topical impact. Musk, Tavares and Hawes, representing interests in the U.S., France and UK respectively, have the most variation in subject matter; Mexican President Obrador and Tony Weber of Australia are much more focused in their conversational topics.


Additionally, the sidebar reveals relevant keywords including brands, countries and institutions relevant to our KOL narratives while also revealing cursory social engagement data.

With an aim for competitive intelligence, it’s important to dig down for answers regarding the questions that arise from your cursory intel. So far, we’ve seen that there is a lot of uncertainty going on in the European auto market and Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk is getting a lot of conversational traction, while also catching those same markets by surprise during a sales slump.

Looking through some of those conversations reveal Tesla gaining ground on brands missing the mark when it comes to electric vehicles. That said, it’s obvious that brands with skin in the game would want some insight into Tesla’s competition and influence. And fortunately, the competitor briefing functionality in Quid Apps can help us there too.


As you can see, Tesla’s conversational volume has increased by 15% over last year while only Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen currently edge them out. Since BMW and Volkswagen are both the closest competitors in share of voice and relevance to the crisis in European auto markets, filtering for them along with Tesla in our KOL conversation boils down the narrative to the closest competitors for further analysis.


Obviously, the directions you can go with the data once you’ve isolated your key opinion leaders within the conversation are nearly infinite depending on what you’re looking for. The key, however, is finding out who they are and isolating where they’re getting traction. That way you can remove the noise; explicitly targeting the insights relevant to your brand.

That said, here’s what we found out about our KOLs in the automotive sector.

key opinion leader list brand guide

Key Opinion Leader Conversations

Mike Hawes

Mike Hawes is the CEO of The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which represents more than 800 automotive companies in the UK. As such, Hawes steers the ship of one of the largest UK trade associations responsible for guiding governmental and regulative authorities.

He comes in at the top of our list of automotive KOLs and has his hands full helping those under his guidance navigate both Brexit and the pandemic.


Elon Musk 

Elon Musk is the CEO of both Tesla Motors and Space X and has a profound effect on the automotive conversation. Tesla has been on the market for eleven years and is solely focused on electric vehicles; with Musk helping to push the envelope of sustainability in the evolving auto industry.

Though his published count in automotive circles isn’t as high as Mike Hawes, he’s on the general public’s radar, which generates a lot of influence through social engagement.


Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the incumbent president of Mexico, who took office in December of 2018. Obrador may be new on the scene but carries a lot of influence, nonetheless. The automotive sector is critically important to Mexican manufacturing and integrates highly with the United States and Canada.

Obrador has been influential in guiding Mexican auto manufacturing through the pandemic and was one of the signatories of the recent United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) restructuring trade in North America.


Tony Weber

Tony Weber is the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) the top representative organization in Australia for companies operating within the automotive sector.

Like Obrador, Weber’s input has been a guiding hand in leading his country’s automotive sector through the pandemic.


Carlos Tavares

Carlos Tavares brings up the rear of our top 5 key opinion leaders but his impact on the auto industry is substantial. Tavares is the CEO and Chairman of the management board of Peugeot S.A. (PSA Group) headquartered in France since 2014. He’s been in the auto industry since 1981 when he came on board with Renault.

During his tenure at Peugeot he’s turned the company around and led it into the green while peer manufacturers have replaced their CEO’s in navigating an evolving industry. With Tavares at the helm, PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler announced their plans to merger last year. The deal,likely to finalize in early 2021, is worth a reported $48B and would create Europe’s largest automaker.


Brands wanting to stay on top of the conversations driving innovation or steering the way through a crisis would do well to spend some time getting to know the KOLs in their industry. Their input isn’t always sitting right there on the surface, especially in our increasingly noisy online world.

Fortunately, the power of next generation artificial intelligence (AI) helps brands cut through the noise to find the most relevant key opinion leader conversations to not only help keep them in the saddle when times get tough, but to stay abreast of the latest innovations as well.

Is your brand in tune with your key opinion leaders? Make sure to reach out for a demo to see how KOL targeting looks for your industry.

key opinion leader list brand guide

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