The careers in automotive are getting fewer and fewer, especially in this day in age of composites. That being said, images are still in need, so it's not entirely a dinosaur.
A few suggestions:
1 - If you're still in school, take some business classes. Accounting, Marketing, etc. I would say that becoming a career photographer (especially as a freelancer) is as much if not more about marketing yourself and running your own books as it is about the actual photography. Lots of photographers can take good photos, but few of them know how to sell their services, and even fewer know their books inside and out. If you have any family, friends, family friends, or even just mild acquaintances who are successful sales people (even in other industries), ask if you can pick their brains on how they are successful. The best sellers typically have a unique approach and stand out from the "I am selling X, which cost $y. Would you like to buy some?" approach. If you want to look into some online learning, there are tons of reading materials and speeches online about the 'art' of selling. Simon Sinek's Ted Talk titled "Start with Why" is one of my favorites. Chase Jarvis is also a commercial photographer who's done a ton of Youtube videos where he's very transparent about what goes into being a professional commercial photographer.
2 - Find out what newspapers, magazines, and agencies are in your area. Reach out, state your interest, and ask if you can check out 'a day in the life' or something along those lines. Suggesting it's for a school project may help you. Here's a few to get you started:
-> 2A - Get creative in how you reach out to these guys. Lots of people want to get paid by these outlets, you may need to do something different to stand out. Clint Davis is an automotive photographer who happens to live in South Carolina, which is not exactly a hotbed for automotive photography work. He created 2 mailers (2010 mailer, 2014 mailer) that were insanely over the top. These kits got sent to a short list of very targeted clients. Each round of mailers cost him a few hundred dollars to make, but each one has more than paid for themselves. You don't have to go all the way to the level he went through, but think of a unique way to stand out, because you may be up against these types of professionals as you're reaching out to higher end clients and agencies. As you start out, maybe you can ask if you can bring coffee / juice / lunch / treats to the office for 20 minutes of their time. It's much harder to turn away someone who's literally at your office than it is to delete an unsolicited email.
3 - Practice your writing. As fun as the photography can be, a freelancer who can provide images AND a story to an editorial outlet can earn a job over a photographer who's only able to provide the images. Practice writing from multiple perspectives. A new car review, event coverage of a car show or motorsports event, and a car feature all have very different styles and audiences. Magazines and editorial outlets often have needs in all three areas very frequently, so make sure you have some examples of all three.
4 - Practice being in front of the camera (video). Video is catching on very quickly, and guys like Doug Demuro and Matt Farah have become self-made automotive journalists in large part to their Youtube presence. You don't have to be on their level, but if an outlet needs you to jump in front of the camera to help produce a 2 or 3 minute clip alongside the story, your comfort and presence in front of the camera will be as important as your ability to produce good photos.
5 - Find local events, and connect with out-of-market media outlets that might be interested. There's tons of regional car shows, motorsport events, and cruises that have interest to media outlets in far-off locations, but no way to cost-effectively cover those events. Major circuits like Indy Car and World Challenge will already have sources for photos, but some of the smaller supporting racing series or events at Toronto Motorsports Park may rely on press photos from the series. If you can provide some unique images and local flavor to the story, outlets may accept them. You may also use that as an opportunity to find cars, drivers, or teams to provide a feature / profile on that could expand a relationship. There are many vehicle and make-specific media outlets (magazines and online) who might be interested in a very cool car in your area, but wouldn't bother to fly a photographer out to shoot it. If you run across some very unique and well built cars, network with the owner and find out if there are any A) outlets that have shown interest in featuring the car but haven't been able to track down a photographer to shoot it, or B) outlets that the owner is a fan of and would love a feature in, but the owner has never thought to reach out to connect with them about a feature. Again, this is where your ability to be a salesman and 'sell' the feature can go a long way.
Some other threads you may want to read: