By on May 4, 2020

Image: General Motors

It’s something we’ve touched upon in the recent past: the fact that, in these pandemic times, a private vehicle is the safest way to get around (from a contagion standpoint). It seems we’re not the only one to rethink the attributes of a personal car. Japanese driving schools are suddenly doing a booming business. Cars.com reports a sudden surge in non-car-owning visitors.

According to data accumulated from numerous countries, automakers could find a slew of newfound buyers once the strictest lockdown measures end.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, a survey of residents in 11 major car-buying countries shows a healthy desire for private car ownership.

Consulting firm Capgemini provided automakers with food for though in its survey of 11,000 participants. Of the people surveyed, 35 percent claimed to be considering or strongly considering a car purchase this year. It’s worth noting that these 11 countries represent 62 percent of the world’s new vehicle volume.

The participants were surveyed in early April, arguably at the height of the pandemic in Europe and before the peak in the United States. Countries involved in the survey were China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and the United States. Of particular interest was the desire for vehicle ownership among young adults, who outpaced the over-35 crowd in their hunger for wheels.

Those younger than 35 replied 45 percent in the affirmative to the question of whether they planned to buy a car this year. Overall, respondents in China and India were most likely to be considering a vehicle buy (61 and 57 percent, respectively), with hard-hit Italy in third place with 43 percent. Spain and the U.S. came in at 36 and 34 percent, respectively.

“We’re going to see individual vehicle usage rise as people more concerned with hygiene choose personal transportation,” said Daniel Davenport, senior director of Capgemini’s North American Automotive sector. “There’s also more interest in car ownership from customers under 35 years old.”

The myth that no Millennial or Gen-Z individual wants to own a car in the West is just that, despite its prevalence among urban mobility types. However, income and living situation dictates whether or not that dream of a driveway with a shiny new car in it comes to pass, and it will remain so. As much as a survey respondent might want a car to keep them safe from COVID-carrying transit riders, their personal finances will ultimately propel them into a dealership or keep them forever away. Automakers can’t do much about the economy and urban living expenses, but at least they know the desire is there.

That potential future demand is also shown in global attitudes towards transit and ride-hailing use. Of the 11,000 participants, 46 percent said they’d be less likely to use transit in the future. Thirty-three percent said they didn’t expect their transit use to change. Ride-hailing saw a similar result, with 43 percent saying that, in the future, they’d avoid taking an Uber or Lyft out of fear for their health (versus 35 percent who said otherwise).

In the U.S., the percentage of respondents predicting less personal public transit use this year was 51, with 53 percent of them expecting less transit use in the future. On the topic of ride-hailing, 49 percent of Americans said they’ll use it less in the coming months and years.

All of this hinges on the coronavirus remaining a stealthy and deadly adversary that lurks everywhere. Were the virus to be eradicated, either by natural mutation or through the discovery of a vaccine, this survey would carry as much predictive weight as a lone atom. For now, though, the virus is very much front and center in peoples’ minds.

When asked whether they thought they’d be in greater control of hygiene in a personal car, 75 percent of the participants replied yes. Asked whether owning a personal vehicle would reduce the chances of becoming infected (when compared to other forms of transport), 68 percent nodded in agreement. Interestingly, 58 percent said they feel the price of new vehicles will drop in the near future.

If an automaker can somehow make a sizable profit off a small car that meets restrictive American and European emissions and fuel economy mandates, now’s the time to test the theory. The coming year could be fertile ground. Once lockdowns end across North America and Europe, we’ll be keeping our eye on sales of existing small cars. I’m sure Chevrolet would be happy to sell you a Spark right now.

[Image: General Motors]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

48 Comments on “Forget Sex and Adventure – Fear Could Be the Big New Sales Motivator...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I can just see the ads now…

    “Stay healthy, buy a car”

    – GM/Ford/Toyota/Honda….

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      That reminds me of the Top Gear UK episode where May and Clarkson were doing a PSA about riding bicycles and the upshot was that anything other than driving a car would result in death.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Perhaps projection on my part, and I can’t say for the rest of the world, but I think COVID-19 has pretty much ended the broad public transportation “battle” in the US for the next 25 years.

    What currently exists won’t be dismantled and the truest believers will still advocate for it but in places where it was already something of an uphill struggle it will now be a steep mountain climb.

    You can argue about the size and power source but for the rest of my lifetime private transportation conveyances are here to stay.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I don’t see any way public transportation can disappear for urban areas; A proliferation of private vehicles there is untenable.

      But I agree that in surrounding regions where public transportation serves the city, this may see the biggest shift to private vehicles.

      I *hope* it won’t result in more autonomous pods.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I think we may see the end of the trendy urban lifestyles that have dominated the last 30 years. The spacious burbs with houses far apart and two cars in every driveway is suddenly looking as good as it did in the 50s

        • 0 avatar
          SaulTigh

          This. I told my wife the other day that we’re about to experience a 2nd suburban renaissance. All the hipsters and trend makers living in the city that largely consume their news from the same place have been so spun up in fear that if they have the money they will go.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “I think COVID-19 has pretty much ended the broad public transportation “battle” in the US for the next 25 years.”

      I hope you are right but I suspect the people without brains will dig in their heels and turn up the crazy to 11.

      Too early to tell for sure, but I foresee the real possibility of a lot of bankruptcies for public transit authorities nationwide in the mid term.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The Fear Package:
    • Antimicrobial door handles [copper/brass/bronze coating] (Level I); touchless entry and exit (Level II)
    • HEPA-level cabin air filtration
    • “Extreme Recirc” mode for passing through [perceived] high-risk areas
    • Overnight disinfecting mode (via ozone generator on a timer)
    • High beltline (oh wait, already standard equipment on many current cars)
    • OEM-branded hand wipes and Biohazard bags displayed prominently on a cute little hanger
    • Touchless hand sanitizer dispenser

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “No contact” driver/passenger divider is already standard on the current Corvette. Add plexiglass above ‘the wall’.

    :-)

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Clearing out the drug addicts, transients, crazy people, pervs, thieves, thugs and “performers,” along with regular cleaning and mechanical maintenance would go a long way toward attracting more riders on systems where people have a practical choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      “ Clearing out the drug addicts, transients, crazy people, pervs, thieves, thugs and “performers,””

      That has to be 90% of their business.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Clearing out the drug addicts, transients, crazy people, pervs, thieves, thugs and “performers,”

      Sounds like a case for improved social programs, public health, and improved mental and physical health care.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Either that or he wants to keep the current president off the subway

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Lou,

        All those programs exist, to the tune of innumerable billions of dollars. You just want to keep adding money, regardless of the results. I get it. That is what the left thinks of as “compassion.”

        What we end up with is more of what we have now: A sweet racket for unionized public employees with unsustainable pensions and an endless honeypot for fat, lazy corrupt government contractors whose only incentive is to make the problem worse so well-meaning but naive people like you will call for giving them even more taxpayer dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      In NYC you have a system that dates back over 100 years, maintained by unionized city employees. You’re lucky it even functions on a day-to-day basis. To have what you describe happen would require privatizing the line and that ain’t gonna happen.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        The San Francisco BART is relatively new, and it is a catastrophe that is overrun with criminals, drug addicts, lunatics and human sht.

        Not every transit system is horrible and dangerous, but the vast majority of people only take it because it is the only practical alternative. Otherwise, virtually everyone would drive a car.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Have you ever taken BART? It’s fine. Seriously. The trains arrive on time, are roomy and comfortable, and the price and speed are decent. Every urban area has human castoffs, but honestly the ticket price means they’re a lot more likely to seek temporary shelter on a city bus.

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Quantitative minded people will weigh the risks of contracting a virus, while wearing a mask, versus the known additional costs in time and money utilizing a privately owned vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      If only a virus were the only downside of public transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Mmmm…risk analysis. Great idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      One could say the same thing about going to the office or job right now @zipster.

      These people tend to believe the worst case projections and given their environment (dense Urban cities) perhaps it is founded.

      So at the end of the day a car may be cheaper than a lengthy hospital stay or death.

      Easier still will be to just move to the suburbs like every other generation of the young and hip do. Sure, you say you’ll never leave but then that first kid reaches school age, you take a look at that low rating for your local school and then it is off to the suburbs in your new Odyssey.

      Boomers did it. Gen X did it. Millennials did it. And now the as yet unnamed generations will do it. The question is will the be replaced by the younger generation that moves in and says the same crap or are those youth going to skip it based on all this and bring the term “Urban decay” back to our lexicon.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    -tuning my banjo- for all of those piling on public transportation;
    “Oh I’ll never live where ‘lectricity ain’t brought by the TVA; won’t ride no subway, won’t pay no HOA.” As for “The cream of really good society would never ride pubic transportation.” Please go to the Pentagon subway stop and tell that to someone in uniform. For some of us, public transportation is the only real choice for getting to work. A rush hour that starts around 0500 and goes unabated until 8 at night makes public transportation a necessity. Although, I’m sure some of the B&B would be proud of commute 2 hours, work 9 hours, commute 9 hours. The places with heavy traffic? Yeah, you’re paying to park too. For me drive to my corporate headquarters and park all day runs $50-70, some of my tolls are time of day sensitive. I’m not the only on here who takes public transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      They aren’t going to dismantle the Metro or EL Train but anyone that had dreams of widespread public transportation in Oklahoma City or anywhere else that doesn’t already have it is going to be disappointed.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      A couple of years ago I flew to a conference in Vancouver. It was quicker from the airport to the hotel via sky train as opposed to surface street.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    One more time for those who live where the parking lots are striped for pick up truck parking. In some urban areas, even if you could drive to work; there is no place to park. Never mind $30-50 single day only, full by 8:00 and that garage has a waiting list parking. No place to park. The subway? Standing room only. Commuter train? Standing room only. You can sneak a beer onboard. Commuter bus? Load and go. 1st person after the bus is full? 30 minutes until the next one. City bus? The bussies swing through traffic and go, the rule of gross tonnage kicks in. They’re full too.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Depending how bad this gets people might move away from urban areas if the best commuting options require such close contact.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        That was my point above. The suburbs already have a socially distant identity built-in. Nobody walks everyone drives everywhere. Single family houses spaced far apart are looking pretty healthy

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          SARS-CoV-2 automatically becomes an infection of the lower socioeconomic classes since the rest of us tend to live in detached homes and can afford a motor vehicle. Our jobs tend to lend themselves more to social distancing and the use of PPE even in larger centres.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            @ Lou_BF For most of us Amazon and Wal-Mart will deliver to your door. Same thing for your grocery store of preference. Ordering a meal is a different story. Where I live most pizza and Asian food places have dedicated delivery drivers. Door Dash ect, take care of the rest of the restaurants. In a few months could this site be renamed The Truth About Hot Food Delivery Containers? Hard wired or dedicated plug-in? One 24 QT container or 6 4qt containers. The staff will let us know.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          “Nobody walks everyone drives everywhere…. looking pretty healthy.”

          I suspect you and I have different definitions of healthy. This virus is temporary in a way that obesity and heart disease aren’t.

  • avatar
    macnab

    I’m reading that Hertz (which includes Dollar and Thrifty) is in default on their leases and is likely to enter bankruptcy. Because cars are a fast depreciating asset the creditors will want partial liquidation of the fleet. A flood of late model cars dovetails nicely with a buying panic.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    A popular San Francisco transit advocate and Twitter employee was clinging to life Sunday after being caught in a fusillade of gunfire in the Mission District while on his way home from picking up takeout food over the weekend, according to friends and police.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I can tell there are a few people who constantly post on here who know all about all and aren’t afraid to let everyone know it.

    Fact: Mass transit (and let’s leave our isolated American bubble here) is a must have necessity for a massive chunk of the world. For those who have a few stamps in their passports, you’ll know cities like London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and all large Japanese cities would not function without their subways. They aren’t littered with the dregs of society…they are filled with commuters who don’t want the misery and high cost of driving. (Go to London and drive around…in 20 minutes, you’ll be looking for a Tube station and abandon the car.) All over Africa and Asia, massive cities have hundreds if not thousands of miles of bus routes that take everyone to work, especially in cities like Lagos, Kinshasa, Nairobi, and Abidjan that are so crowded and expensive, car ownership isn’t practical. Are they the dregs of society that don’t deserve a safe ride to work and home?

    And look at American cities when their mass transit unions go on strike. Places like Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, NYC, Washington, DC all go into crisis mode because millions of commuters suddenly have lost their ride to work. Not everyone lives in a small town in Middle America – the reality is that living and driving in places like Boston and NYC involve parking, tolls, congestion charges, and the wear and tear on your car just by driving it in an urban area. Even places that just have bus lines – midsized cities of 300,000+ people – still have plenty of good people commuting to work, providing for their families and they need a bus.

    Spread out cities trying to expand their lines – think Las Vegas, Phoenix, Charlotte – that might be a challenge. But the large cities with massive mass transit networks – those have to function safely. Think masks, gloves, and frequent scrubbings for the future. That’s true for the entire world.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Agreed. Mass transit is necessary in many crowded cities around the world. It often sucks, because it is noisy, crowded, dirty and worse, but people take it because they are too poor to use a car or there is no practical alternative. If you are travelling with your children, it can be quite an ordeal.

      Lot’s of people still use San Francisco’s BART, even though the city and counties have turned it into a zombieland of filth, human waste, disease and crime. That doesn’t mean they like it. Anyone who thinks these systems are going to be made clean and sanitary has little experience as a passenger in SF or NYC, much less some of the poorer parts of the planet.

      In some places, public transit must be very nice. Comfortable, spacious, clean, quiet, and safe. I’m sure the bullet train to Osaka is safe and clean. Mostly though, people take mass transit because there is no other realistic option.

      Mass transit is like forcing someone to puke when they’ve accidentally swallowed poison. Not pleasant, but better than the alternative.

      • 0 avatar
        Zipster

        Strange, I frequently ride the metros in Chicago, New York, and Boston and while not operating room sterile, I do not find them as objectionable as do the writers here. Once again, the cream of really good society does not ride public transportation.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Really? Have you taken a commuter train up Chicago’s north shore at 5:00? I doubt you’ll see anyone making less then a $100K a year on it. Have you ever taken the subway from Wall Street at 5:00? Cheek to cheek with guys wearing 3-piece suits that cost as much as what some people make a month

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I have plenty of stamps in my passport. My last trip was Paris which I consider to be the gold standard for mass transit. Were I to live in the city it is the one place that I’d be unlikely to own a car (NYC and London aren’t as good IMHO). Still, plenty of cars in Paris.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Interesting article. The ripple effects of the crisis are having the largest impact on the world since the fall of the Soviet Union IMO.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • blppt: Lease deals can be had on S3, and they actually have stock of them. Golf R is a rare bird to find on the lot,...
  • pveezy: People in these comments sections always seem to be in the early 2000s mindset. For one, gas mileage is not...
  • pveezy: I’ve owned like 8 automatic cars and never had a single one that had a transmission issue before I was ready...
  • pveezy: I dunno, I’ve been a sedan guy all my life, but when it comes to Ikea trips or big ticket purchases, that CUV...
  • pveezy: SUVs get the same or better fuel economy vs similar sized sedans now. We aren’t talking about 2005 Yukons...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber