There's a growing worldwide trend of younger people shunning personal cars for public transport.
Published on Apr 29, 2023 09:00:00 AM
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Around the world, more and more car-free areas are being created.
On the 16th of February, there was an article in The Economist titled “Throughout the rich world, the young are falling out of love with cars.” It discussed the trend of younger people not opting for driving licences but for public transport and cycling, city councils reducing parking spaces, podcasts encouraging people to shun the individual motorcar and changing road plans to favour pedestrians over drivers! Certain rich countries have been witnessing a growing anti-car movement, dovetailing very well with environmentalists.
Would this ever happen in India, I asked myself? Will the rich and upper middle-class youth not be enamoured with a new set of wheels anymore? Will they be taking the DTC or BEST bus around town or their Firefox or B-twin bicycle? That would be a frightening thought for sure. What will automakers do? What about the new SUVs they are planning? Or the upgrades with bigger screens and wider sunroofs? Will kids everywhere hold their breath and say, “No zero emissions, no car”? Catastrophe! Nah, not possible! India is still an emerging automobile market. Look at the paltry car penetration per 1,000 people. It’s in economies with a glut of car ownership where there’s a reaction against it and where there’s a very well-developed public transport system. We will take many years to even contemplate such a situation.
Paris and Berlin are stripping away parking spaces. We never had proper ones in the first place! They are planning pedestrian-friendly roads. Our roads are half encroached upon by shacks, temples and squatters! They have been moving to public transport as an alternative. We have ensured we have a viable one in the first place. More so, they are rich economies. So yes, it will take a while to catch on here.
But let us not rest easy thinking that what happens in the West will never happen in India. There is growing awareness and activism about issues like congestion, pollution, conspicuous consumption and sustainability. Our Gen-Z is very differently wired and more globally aligned on socio-economic issues than we marketers would like. And that exactly is what we need to analyse, address and assuage. They are tomorrow’s customers and consumers. They are more into consumption and experiences than into ownership, irrespective of financial capability. If the richer segments that are now buying the bigger cars and SUVs realise that their younger population finds the personal car an irresponsible purchase, they might just prefer gifting them tickets to Machu Picchu over the keys to a Maruti Swift!
Which compact city EV would you buy on a Rs 12 lakh budget?
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