If you believe the experts, nobody will want to own a car in the near future. They seem to think people are rational and will always choose the cheapest and most efficient option. But they don’t recognise how much we relish the personal freedom that owning a car brings.
The main argument against owning a car is always economic – inefficient use of an asset. Most people use a car only 4% of the time, but a ridesharing vehicle can be continually on the road. Typically, they ask: “what could be madder than having your own car, which costs half your salary and spends its life sitting outside your house?”
It is no surprise ridesharing or mobility providers, like Uber, Ford’s GoDrive and manufacturer Lynk & Co think ridesharing is the future of driving. They will also own the fleets of vehicles.
Cost of ownership
Of course it makes economic sense to rent a vehicle by the hour – with a broad choice of vehicles for whatever the occasion. But who would rent a house by the hour just because they were there in the evenings and at weekends only?
Of course, the cost of owning a car, like a home, can be high. It includes purchase price, depreciation, luxury car tax or import tariff, tolls and even fines for road rule infringements. Then you have to find somewhere to put it. Many new apartment blocks do not even have designated parking.
Another argument is young people, such as Millennials, are just not interested in owning anything. They live in large cities where parking is expensive, traffic flow is heavy, and they like to work close to where they live. For them, ridesharing is a rational decision because they have no history of a car-focused lifestyle.
Many experts pushing mobility services, rather than car ownership, are themselves younger and more future-focused. They were not in their late-teens excitedly saving for their first car.
As vehicles become increasingly able to drive themselves – and arguably safer on the roads – it makes less practical sense to be a driver. A US report predicts 95% of people will no longer own a car by 2030. Instead, they will use on-demand electric autonomous vehicles owned by fleets.
Even so, the Chinese already buy one in four vehicles. Motorists in India and other developing nations have an insatiable appetite for cars. Even if we reach “peak car” in the West, there are no signs of it in the rest of the developing world.
In Australia until more recently, nothing says freedom like having your own wheels.
Much depends on your definition of freedom. For many people, owning a vehicle they chose and paid for is a symbol of freedom, status or personal achievement. In fact, luxury car manufacturers are still aware of these crucial human needs. Audi, for example, says customers in the premium luxury segment are not at all interested in sharing their car. Nor do they want to share any vehicle owned by somebody else.
Here to stay
Carlos Ghosn, chairman of the Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi alliance, says the traditional business of building, selling and owning cars will continue.
His view is new technologies are not a substitution but an addition to the old. Besides, personally owned vehicles will still include the latest must-have technologies. While some segments of the market choose ridesharing and autonomous vehicles, others will want to pay for their own personal vehicle.
Even futurist Tony Seba, known for controversy, says individual car ownership will not disappear entirely. By 2030, he says, 40% of cars will still be privately owned, but make up only 5% of total kilometres travelled.
What is your view? Do you intend to keep owning a car?