© Unsplash / Nguyen

Cars to provide mobile protection

Feb 10, 2021

Coronavirus is changing not only the way we work, but also our mobility patterns. Cars are becoming places of refuge. But this means a shift away from local public transport, train travel and flying. Read why private cars are booming during the pandemic.

Individual travel has become hugely more important during the corona pandemic. Many people are taking to their bicycles or cars in order to avoid contacts with others. As expected, local public transport has lost a lot of its popularity: 56 percent of Germans are currently avoiding it. Subways and urban rail services are seen as (very) unsafe by 67% of respondents, buses by 66%, flights by 60% and trains by 59%. Carpooling and ride-hailing have also lost some of their attraction. Forty percent of those surveyed currently feel that these services are unsafe. Around the world, 87 percent of consumers prefer to use personal vehicles. Compare this with 57 percent at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Cars are also seen as a refuge from coronavirus, offering the best safety and physical well-being. These are the results of a recent survey by Capgemini.

Building on the results of the study entitled “COVID-19 and the Automotive Consumer – How can Automotive Organizations re-engage Consumers and reignite demand?” from last spring, the consulting firm’s research institute revisited these issues in the fall and surveyed 11,000 consumers from eleven countries to find out more about the impacts on mobility behavior. Even though many people were much less mobile during the crisis than they were before, some of them are using their cars more than ever. This is happening in China in particular. Almost half of respondents there reported that they were using their cars more, as shown by the Continental Mobility Study 2020. In Germany the same is true of a quarter of respondents.

„The corona pandemic has changed people’s expectations of mobility. Consumers increasingly prefer personal vehicles, health and hygiene features in cars, and digital modes of interaction throughout the purchase.“

Rainer Mehl, Executive Vice President and Head of Automotive at Capgemini and co-author of the study

Pandemic has hit the vehicle market hard

Nearly 60 percent of planned car purchases in Germany were postponed in April 2020 because of COVID-19. The bottom line is that people are very concerned. The risk of infection, lockdowns, closures, short-time working, and job cuts – these factors threaten millions of livelihoods. According to the market research company Appinio, one third of Germans are currently worried about the personal financial consequences. The restrictions on mobility and freedom to travel are also making customers wait before buying a car. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) recently published statistics for 2020: sales fell – sometimes drastically – in nearly every country in the world. The largest slump (around 25 percent) was recorded in Europe. Sales in the US collapsed by almost 15 percent. China ended the year relatively unscathed, on minus six percent. Experts firmly expect demand to pick up again as the economy recovers after the pandemic. The proportion of consumers worldwide who would like to buy a car in the next twelve months is 46 percent; among German consumers the figure is 39 percent.

Car’s comeback among younger consumers

Young adults who don’t yet have a vehicle of their own are once again thinking more often than before about buying one. The Capgemini study shows that 59 percent of 18 to 35-year-olds are considering the purchase of a car in the next twelve months. The intention to buy a car is being driven by a combination of favorable financing schemes and state incentive programs for electric vehicles. But also leasing and subscribing are becoming more attractive. Over one third of respondents worldwide would prefer subscription or leasing to buying a car. In the 18 to 35 age group this proportion is 49 percent worldwide, and a huge 62 percent in Germany. The majority of potential customers would like the entire purchasing process – from the initial search for information all the way to aftersales service – to be touchless as far as possible.

As a result, the auto makers have swiftly expanded their direct marketing via digital channels. The study found that almost half (49 percent) of consumers would like to use only online channels to look for information about cars; before the COVID-19 pandemic it was 39 percent. In recent months, interest in using AR/VR technologies has also greatly increased: 85 percent of respondents prefer AR/VR tools for comparing models, colors and functions when choosing a car. All the same, seven out of ten respondents still want to visit a showroom in the future to clarify specific questions before making their purchase. But interestingly, fifty-six percent of those considering buying a vehicle want to scale down their requirements. They tend to prefer a car in the lower price segment. Furthermore, hygiene features have become more important. For example, 85 percent of those surveyed want special air filters, ambient air quality indicators, and sterilizing UV LEDs – in spring 2020 this proportion was only 49 percent.

(Stage photo: © Unsplash / Nguyen)

The IAA MOBILITY is transforming itself from a pure car show to an international mobility platform with four pillars: the Summit, the Conference, the “Blue Lane” and the downtown Munich Open Space. Under the slogan of “What will move us next”, it stands for the digital and climate-neutral mobility of the future. From 7 to 12 September 2021, the car, bike and tech industries come together at IAA MOBILITY in Munich.