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7 Iconic Ads That Prove The Combustion Engine is Dead

Screenshot from one of Nissan's 2016 Prius commercials. Image: Nissan.
Screenshot from one of Nissan's 2016 Prius commercials. Image: Nissan.

Well maybe not just yet, but if you check out these ads you’ll agree that electric and hybrid cars are taking over the world.

For a generation that is growing up with iPhones and video games, the choice between an electric car and a vehicle based on technology that pre-dates World War I is increasingly straightforward.

Many early adopters are already going fully electric, while others wait for prices to fall and batteries to improve. In the meantime, widespread availability and government incentives make that hybrid cars which combine a combustion and electric engine are taking the planet by a storm.

So how do car companies market their 21st century automobiles? The Daily Planet has selected 7 iconic advertisements for you.

1. Toyota Prius

Toyota’s Prius hybrid car is hardly the coolest ride on the planet, or is it? In the Japanese company’s latest series of TV commercials, the car features as a getaway car for a gang of criminals – allowing them to escape from the police.

The most recent US version shows how the cops wise up to the situation and manage to keep up with the fugitives by getting a Prius themselves and kitting it out with flashing lights, sirens and police colours.

2. Tesla Model 3

Tesla – the American upstart that is disrupting the traditional auto industry – takes a very different approach to selling cars. So far, the Californian electric car maker has shied away from spending money on traditional advertising. Tesla’s strategy relies on the organic sharing and spreading of its message.

Judging by the close to 400.000 pre-orders the company recently received for its latest, more affordable model, the strategy is working just fine for the moment. The Apple-esque unveiling of the new car at Tesla’s headquarters by the company’s South African-born Canadian-American visionary CEO, Elon Musk, spread like wildfire across the internet and news networks alike.

3. Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s full-electric Leaf has been on the market since 2010. Although priced below the Model 3, the car is not getting nearly as much attention as Tesla’s models. Which may have something to do with it not being as fast or good looking as its Californian competitor.

So what to do? Following the unveiling of Tesla’s new car, the Japanese auto maker saw an opportunity to poke some fun at the American start-up. On Earth Day 2016 – the day the Paris Agreement was signed by 175 parties in New York – the company placed full-page ads in newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, highlighting how the Leaf is available in stores today.

The first Tesla Model 3’s are expected to hit the roads in 2017 and require a reservation and $1000 (€1000 in Europe) down payment. Time will tell if Nissan’s advertising strategy is behind the times, or if it will spark Tesla’s first traditional ad campaign.

Nissan's 22 April 2016 advertisement in US newspapers.
Nissan’s 22 April 2016 advertisement in US newspapers.

4. BMW i3

BMW launched it’s i3 electric car back in 2013 with a city-focused commercial. Rather than portraying the car as a fast an furious machine, the German car maker focuses on how a clean car without fumes is a perfect fit for transporting children around town and effortlessly moving about the urban landscape from dusk till dawn.

5. Porsche Mission E

This car may not be on the market yet, but Porsche is not wasting any time promoting it with Tesla stealing all the headlines these days. The Volkswagen-owned company is planning a full-electric sports car, and unveiled the concept at an industry event in Frankfurt last year, along with with this video commercial.

The company claims it will beat Tesla’s cars in every way, and expects the first electric cars to roll out of its factories before 2020.

6. BMW i8

You want a modern sports car now, and not in 2020? As long as you can afford it, you could bridge the gap with BMW’s i8 hybrid. Or in the words of scandal-plagued motoring journatainer Jeremy Clarkson: “It is a fabulous car. And if you have £56,000 lying around, you should buy one – immediately.”

Like Tesla, even traditional companies such as BMW use organic advertising to promote their products. Making your cars available for magazine and TV reviews is one way to achieve this, and it looks like the German car maker struck gold with this 2015 review of the i8 in BBC motoring show Top Gear.

7. Benz-Patent Motorwagen

This car may not be electric or hybrid, but it is iconic. Launched in 1886, the Benz-Patent Motorwagen is considered to be the first petrol powered car. Check out Wikipedia to find out how a PR stunt (and not ‘traditional’ advertising) promoted the first Benz-Patent Motorwagen.

The original cost of the car was $1000 (the price of a down payment for a Tesla Model 3), or roughly $26,500 in today’s money (that’s just about $6.000 cheaper than a Nissan Leaf).

According to Bloomberg’s most conservative estimates, electric cars will be cheaper than their contemporary fossil fuel equivalents by 2022 – that’s less than 6 years from now. The combustion engine may have served us well for the last 130 years, but chances are you’ll soon find it in a museum along with the Benz-Patent Motorwagen.

Do you know more iconic advertisements? Let us know in the comments!

If you’d like to get involved in the electric car industry, make sure to check out out how Climate-KIC could help you start your own company.

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