Auto Industry Shifting from Building and Marketing to Smart Transportation

by Jon LeSage, edi­tor of Used Car Mar­ket Reports

There’s more evi­dence that change is in the air, when it comes to car own­er­ship in Amer­i­ca.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan Trans­porta­tion Research Insti­tute (UMTRI) just released two stud­ies on the issues. One study showed by that the rate of vehi­cle own­er­ship on a per-per­son, per-house­hold, and per-licensed dri­ver basis peaked in 2006 pri­or to the Great Reces­sion. Anoth­er UMTRI study found that there’s been a sig­nif­i­cant decline in vehi­cle miles trav­eled – those num­bers peaked in 2004.

The stud­ies have found change is due to increased telecom­mut­ing, high­er use of pub­lic trans­porta­tion, greater urban­iza­tion, and changes in the ages of dri­vers. A big one is Gen-Y/Mil­lenials los­ing inter­est in dri­ving; only 28% of 16-year-olds had driver’s licens­es in 2010, com­pared with 44% in 1980, accord­ing to UMTRI. Miles dri­ven by young peo­ple 16-to-34 years old also dropped quite a bit – 23% between 2001 and 2009. Old­er dri­vers also play into it – they make up the major­i­ty of dri­vers on Amer­i­can roads and are tend­ing to dri­ve short­er dis­tances.

Expand­ed tran­sit sys­tems and bike-share net­works are also play­ing into less miles dri­ven behind the wheel. Bicy­cle com­mut­ing in the US grew by 47% between 2000 and 2011, and at much high­er lev­els in a few bike-friend­ly cities.

As recent­ly report­ed in Auto­mo­tive News, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is once again the bell­wether of changes in trans­porta­tion trends.

  • Light rail has been expand­ed 26% in the past eight years. Bike lane net­works have dou­bled to 292 miles. Bus and train rid­er­ship is grow­ing – up near­ly 5% in May 2013 ver­sus May 2011.
  • Even more sig­nif­i­cant – the total num­ber of pas­sen­ger cars has declined in Los Ange­les. The mar­ket rebound­ed from the reces­sion, but the 2012 sales num­bers were 28,000 less than five years ear­li­er.

Trans­porta­tion alter­na­tives, some­times called Smart Trans­porta­tion, are gain­ing a lot more inter­est in sprawl­ing urban envi­ron­ments. Here are a few trends to pay atten­tion to, which will affect vehi­cle sales and the roles that automak­ers and deal­ers will be play­ing in year ahead….

  • Car­shar­ing, van­pool­ing, and group trans­porta­tion modes.
  • Alter­na­tive vehi­cle tech­nolo­gies includ­ing plug-ins, hybrids, and alter­na­tive fuels.
  • Bike lanes and bike rid­er­ship.
  • Light rail and bus­ing.
  • Liv­ing clos­er to work and retail stores with more foot traf­fic – and less annoy­ance with find­ing park­ing spaces and being charged fees for them. Plus more telecom­mut­ing through the lat­est tech­nolo­gies.
  • Even­tu­al­ly, advanced vehi­cle tech­nolo­gies are expect­ed to play a larg­er role in the solu­tion through autonomous vehi­cles that can park them­selves and even­tu­al­ly dri­ver­less cars. Safe­ty, reduced traf­fic con­ges­tion, and clean­er air are typ­i­cal­ly cit­ed rea­sons for mov­ing for­ward in these break­throughs.
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