Dmytro is the founder of Solvid and Pridicto. Featured in Hackernoon, TechRadar and Entreprepreneur.
Covid-19 has thrown us into an era of great uncertainty. Every industry has been impacted by the devastating pandemic in some way or another, and there’s no sign of a return to normal life in the pipeline any time soon.
The ramifications of the pandemic have brought with it a widespread move towards working from home (WFH) solutions for businesses looking to continue operating while stemming the spread of the virus.
With the short term success of WFH, the wider effects of more employees choosing to continue working remotely as nations begin to revert to the ‘new normal’ way of life following Covid, what will it mean for the motoring industry?
Let’s explore whether the popularity of remote work in the wake of Covid could ultimately spell the end of motoring as we know it:
The Lure of Going Remote
(Image: Streets Blog)
It already seems impossible for many workers who have been fortunate enough to retain their job in a remote capacity during the pandemic to return to a Monday to Friday office routine on a regular basis. This sentiment has been echoed in figures published in Streets Blog, which shows just 24% of respondents to a survey do not want to work from home in any form following the end of Covid-19.
This news follows a claim from Chris Herd, founder and CEO of Firstbase, that there will be 255 million remote workers by the end of the decade. Herd points to the development of WFH technologies and shifting preferences alongside the necessity of pandemic prevention in his reasons for suggesting such a heavy uptake of remote workers.
As WFH transitions into becoming normality for millions of workers, their typical commutes automatically become a thing of the past. This results in significant drops in the use of public transport as well as cars in order to get from A to B.
Furthermore, remote work may spell the end of households with multiple cars. If users no longer need to drive and park up at work, car sharing can become much more effective within families.
Dwindling Sales as a Warning Sign
As the virus swept through Western Europe in the spring of 2020, used car sales dropped by as much as 80% in some countries as citizens embraced lockdown and stayed home.
According to research from the Economic Times, new vehicle sales fell by 47% year-over-year, while rental, commercial and government fleet purchases dropped by a staggering 70% within the same time period.
While it’s worth caveating these figures with the fact that most dealerships around the world have suffered heavily with forecourt closures due to lockdown and isolation measures, a loss of consumer spending power coupled the rise of WFH has played a role in lowering the purchase intentions of consumers towards buying cars, leading to a rise of car financing and more generous offers from popular manufacturers, where users can pay-off their vehicle on a monthly basis.
The Push For Alternative Transport
The Guardian recently ran a report that suggested driving may never be the same again following Covid-19, highlighting cities like Milan stating their intent to bring wholesale changes after the pandemic as well as calls across Britain to build more cycling and walking spaces in lieu of empty roads.
In the months that followed the publication of the article, such calls in the UK have evolved into MP-led pressure on the government to legalise alternative forms of transport lie e-scooters.
For those living in densely populated towns and cities, interest in both cars and public transport could be at a low as citizens struggle to shake off the effect of long-term social distancing measures and the close proximity to other transport users.
With a lower emphasis on essential journeys for work, slower and less-claustrophobic alternative transport methods could become altogether more popular within cities as users look for more comfortable ways of getting from A to B.
Changing Attitudes Towards Buying
So, with fewer consumers requiring a vehicle to make the morning commute and more widespread adopters of alternative transport methods like bicycles, e-scooters and even walking, where does this leave the car?
Fortunately for manufacturers, there’s plenty of evidence that demand in more rural locations and areas with a more frail transport infrastructure will revert back to a similar level as we eventually overcome Covid-19 and return to ‘new normal’ living.
However, another major change in the future of motoring post-Covid will involve how many drivers buy their cars. While online sales only amounted to around 10-15% of US car purchases in 2019, it’s reasonable to expect this figure to rise significantly over 2020 and beyond. This will not only be accelerated by the necessity of using online dealerships while brick and mortar forecourts are closed, but also by the rising levels of competition between dealerships.
Furthermore, the pandemic will greatly affect how people spend money on accessing cars. With the threat of a global recession stunting consumer spending power, we may see more car loans appearing rather than outright purchases as drivers attempt to consolidate their money more in the short-term.
We could even see families pooling together to purchase all-purpose cars rather than have driveways with three or four vehicles that were originally bought to deliver various family members to their commuting destinations each day.
The wonderful thing about the world of motoring is that it’s capable of adapting to change with ease. The industry is set to embrace plenty of significant developments in terms of accommodating AI technology into vehicles and its evolution towards suiting the changing needs of consumers in a post-Covid world will be fascinating to see unfold.
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