What Shared Mobility Means for Car Owners?

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The auto industry is facing a confluence of events, all of which could have a tremendous impact on the fortunes of many global players. While the move towards electric vehicles and driverless cars tend to get most of the headlines, one trend which is already having a massive impact on the industry is shared mobility.

Why is shared mobility having an impact? It is because the days of needing to own a car, even for those in the suburbs or smaller cities, is quickly coming to an end. While the impact of fewer car buyers is easy to see for automakers, the impact on car owners is rarely brought up.

These include car enthusiasts – who continue to love their cars – and others who see owning a car as nothing more than an encumbrance. With that in mind, here is some insight on what shared mobility means for car owners.

Still in its early days

While shared mobility has been around if the wheel, the industry was brought into the digital age with the rise of Zip Car, Uber, and Lyft. The premise is simple. Why own a car all the time when you barely use it? As such, the answer is either to drive yourself in a rented vehicle or to hire a driver on a fractional basis.

In theory, this makes getting around easier as the user has more options to upgrade their vehicle based on their needs at the time. For example, if you are moving, it might make sense to hire a van or a pickup truck. While getting around on New Year’s Eve might requiring sharing a ride with strangers as this would reduce the cost.


However, this approach to mobility is still in its early days. Not only because the concept of ownership is very deeply entrenched in the American psyche. But the road systems in many cities are not set up to support the broad implementation of a mass transit system which is not a monopoly. This can lead to less than optimal traffic flows as users try to customize the “mass transit” options to fit their needs.

Even with the potential downfalls, younger generations – specifically Millennials and Gen Z – are less inclined to consider owning a car compared to their predecessors. If this initial trend continues then we could live in a world were fewer and fewer decide to purchase a car, at least until later in life.

Impact on Auto Companies

For auto companies, this means that they need to find ways to survive in the future were the number of customers for their product declines. While it is to soon to know which approach will win out there are several options for automakers and their suppliers.

The first option might be to rethink auto design to support a longer lifecycle. While some of this approach has been enabled by improving quality standards, ongoing improvements in design are needed. This includes the transition of vehicle systems from mechanical to electrical. It could also mean that automakers may even make available parts APIs (Application Programming Interface) such as Octopart to make it easier for service departments to customize vehicles to meet the needs of its owners or users.

While a more cynical option would be to go in the opposite direction – at least in terms of engineering – by designing vehicles that would become more expensive to maintain over time. Granted, this does happen naturally as parts availability becomes an issue but speeding up this process could make it easier for automakers to force remaining owners to hold onto their cars for a shorter period.

Another option would be to transition from outright ownership to leasing. This would allow owners to continue to have a dedicated car while perpetuating their car payment. While this might not be ideal for everyone, it would make upgrading to a new car a lot like changing cell phones.

The Impact on Car Owners

As mentioned, some would-be owners may change to forego ownership altogether. While this could work for those in certain urban areas, it would mean a radical rethink of mobility for many car owners. In this way, it is safe to assume that there will always be some portion of the driving age public that will continue to own a car.

But a decline in the pool of potential car owners could also mean that buyers will have less choice in terms of what they can buy. This could be due to industry consolidation, whereby some automakers are acquired, but also by automakers simplifying their vehicle lineups. This is already happening to a certain extent as carmakers put most of their focus on crossover vehicles and pickups.

Lastly, new model introductions could slow to a trick as carmakers seek to recoup the massive investment needed to bring a new or upgraded model to market. This would signify even less choice for car owners as the design cycle stretches to eight-years or more.

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