The 18th of august news got out that Dutch car sales are forecasted to sink to the level of 1969 at the end of 2014, according to research bureau Aumacon and Dutch news broadcaster RTL Nieuws.
Although the overall sales have been relatively steady over the last ten years, Aumacon Director Dickmann tells the real causes of the smaller demand of personal cars are structural. He notices that cars are less important for a daily commuter and less of a status symbol for younger generations. That effect is also noticeable in the car sales that indeed are made; a clear shift towards the purchase of the smaller car. Sales of electric car’s won’t be at the level of last year but the level isn’t declining. Only in the premium market the sales are increasing, though relatively small.
What would this effectively mean? Of course trading in your big, old fuel consuming SUV for a smaller, hybrid efficient model sounds logical. Fuel prices have gone up steadily and are looking to do so in the foreseeable future. Oldtimers in the Netherlands are confronted with new legislation according to modern output emission standards, at least in the major cities, so car owners might see that as a logical moment to say goodbye to their old friends.
More importantly and worrying though for car manufacturers should be the product experience of Generation Y drivers. These younger drivers haven’t seem to have the attachment to the automobile itself such as the generations before them. Generation Y is known for it’s self-sufficient attitude. Relatively highly educated they are familiar with going to work or study by train and other public transportation. In addition, they are too ambitious to ‘make the same mistake’ as the earlier generations to stand still in traffic jams and would want to contribute to solving that problem.
But then again, why don’t we see the same trend in the USA or other European countries? Well, we do, if you know where to look.
In 1969 the best sold car in the Netherlands was the Peugeot 204. In the USA, and I don’t even know what the numbers on car sales were, they sold the Charger in 1969. The Dodge Charger, for crying out loud. A car so drop-dead gorgeous looking and powerful it still is one of the most featured cars in racing movies today.
Of course we know that Americans like their cars big anyway as the pickup truck still is the best sold car in the USA today. In general, the car is still very practical in the USA and also a status symbol. Younger Americans though aren’t that attached though to their cars it seems, especially students living in big cities. They also, like their European counterparts, prefer public transportation or other ways to commute. It is no surprise that these developments go hand in hand with the rise of new apps that want to provide better service for current transport possibilities, like Uber. Also, when we don’t want to part from our cars just yet, why not share the cost of having the car with other possible users? That’s the idea behind Snappcar in the Netherlands and it seems to work.
Uber is experiencing legislation resistance in most European countries at the moment. It is clear that governments will have a hard time figuring out a way to regulate current business infrastructures and still allow innovative business models (through apps) to evolve. In any case, they must find a way for Generation Y isn’t very fond of not getting what they want…
Dutch TV Show Tegenlicht (NPO) has made an interesting item about the future of the car. Watch it here.