An Uptick in Personal Car Buyers Could Be Coming


For years, the transportation industry has been slowly evolving to promote shared mobility. Uber and Lyft are two of the most popular names, although bike sharing and public transportation are among commuter options as well. That might all be changing once again due to the coronavirus.

Capgemini Research Institute performed their Consumer Behavior Survey in early April. One question asked was, “I will use public transport less often and take my own car more often.” Not surprisingly, 51 percent of American respondents agreed with the statement, even higher than the global average of 46 percent.

Consumer confidence in public transportation has eroded, and quickly. Ridership on public transportation options such as buses and subways in the United States plummeted 73 percent compared in April 2020 compared to the previous year. Clearly, consumers fear the communal environment of these shared vehicles.

The sentiment is shared with ride hailing services too. The same survey asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement: “I will prefer to use fewer ride hailing services (in the future) owing to health and safety concerns.” Globally, 43 percent stated it was true for them while in the U.S., it was up to 49 percent. 

Personal Cars are Seen as Saferpersonal

Overwhelmingly the view is that public transportation is a breeding ground for disease – more specifically, the spread of COVID-19.  Whether that’s verifiably true or not, the perception is there. A complimentary perception in 3 out of 4 respondents is that control of hygiene for their own vehicle is one driver for purchasing a car and opting out of shared mobility.

The only more prevalent influencing factor for buying a car is their need to fulfill travel requirements.

Evidence speaks to the survey results. While public transit ridership remains down 71 percent, driving is only down 6 percent – almost to normal levels. 

Related: Increasing Trends in Automotive

Avoiders Could Be Buyers

With buses and subways operating at only one-quarter their normal volume, there are two things that can be safely inferred: plenty of commuters are either working at home or out of work, and roadways are going to be busier than ever when the economy returns to normal. Those sitting at home will be headed out eventually, and three-quarters will prefer to use their own vehicle.

The trend away from personal vehicles is reversed, but an untold number of bus and subway riders either don’t currently have their own car, or their current vehicle isn’t satisfactory for the daily drive. The situations lends itself to a particular outcome in the coming months of a surge in new and used car sales.

Since most public transportation riders seek to save money, be ‘green’, and uncomplicate their commute, this could be a temporary stopgap until the coronavirus threat has passed. It would be expected that many of these potential buyers would look to low-cost, reliable vehicles that have excellent resale value and low impact on the environment. Particularly, the used car market with fuel-efficient models in spartan trim levels would be attractive as they’ve become accustomed to modest accommodations in public options.

Dealers could find success marketing lower price point models in areas where public transportation ridership is high. Compare the cost of car ownership with the cost of using shared mobility if it makes sense, showing consumers that the safer option is also affordable.


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

Car Biz Today, the official resource of the retail automotive industry.

soundcloudBe sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date or catch-up on all of our podcasts on demand.

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest auto industry news from CBT News.