TRAVERSE CITY, MI – More people will turn to new app-oriented mobility services such as car and ride sharing, but that direction won’t harm the auto industry.
So says Adela Spulber, a transportation systems analyst for the Center for Automotive Research and lead author of a CAR report, “The Impact of New Mobility Services on the Automotive Industry.”
“New mobility will have an impact, but it won’t hurt auto sales,” she says at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars here.
The growing popularity of Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and other alternatives to car ownership create new opportunities for automakers, she says.
Those include partnerships with new-age mobility firms (such as General Motors’ partnership with Lyft), R&D on transportation solutions, in-house mobility services, new-vehicle financing models and fleet sales to mobility providers.
“Automakers are rethinking their existing business models,” says Spulber, a European who now lives and works in the U.S. “Before I moved to suburban Detroit, I never had a driver’s license. I used Uber to get to all my job interviews.”
Nissan is among automakers researching how consumers of tomorrow might get around. The goal is to know “what we want to offer to future generations,” says Rachel Nguyen, a social psychologist who is executive director of Nissan’s Future Lab.
She maintains offices in two distinctly different California locations: technology-oriented Silicon Valley and Venice Beach, known for its hip individuality.
Future Lab has partnered with San Francisco vehicle-sharing company Scoot, which has a fleet of 300 2-wheel electric scooters. Now, in collaboration with the Nissan-Renault Alliance, Scoot offers short-term sharing of battery-powered quadricycles sold in Europe as the Renault Twizy.
Pressing the 2-seater into service in the U.S. as a car-sharing vehicle allows the automakers to gauge potential market interest.
“With sharing services, you can see end-user demand,” Nguyen says at the CAR conference. “You marry that data to social research and information from ride-along focus groups.”
User data indicates the Scoot quadricycles are used on weekdays primarily by commuters seeking easily accessible and inexpensive transportation. On weekends, the vehicles are used more for recreation, “such as showing a friend in town around San Francisco,” Nguyen says.