Berlin main train station, directions to the closest car sharing point
For many in this previously buzzing European autoindustry this is going to hurt. For some unfortunate members, choosing to stick their head into the sand, this may still hurt a lot more.
Today’s consensus view is that Europe’s car market, which just endured the worst sales crisis in post war history, is unlikely to reach pre-crisis levels before the end of this decade.
But even that, a gradual climb back to the annual 14 million plus annual West European sales levels seen between 1999 and 2007, may never be reached again.
Possibility is, the way things stand at present, that in just a few years from now the industry may conceivably look back at these early years of the current millennium as Europe’s last golden autoindustry era.
Today more than half the world’s population already lives in cities. And if latest trends are anything to go by, that proportion is continuing to rise at an accelerating rate.
For today’s twentysomethings, while still living in small towns or rural communities, access to a car, or ideally their own four wheels, is an essential part of life.
However, the inevitable attraction of bright city lights, job choice and the associated buzz, inevitably means a major change in lifestyle.
Suddenly the car, which provided freedom of movement while still resident in an urban small town, is no longer needed.
Mobility can often be conveniently and quickly accomplished by affordable and efficient public transport.
Many European cities already lead the way.
Add to that a growing network of bike routes and a growing health and fitness awareness, particularly among today’s youngsters, and what you’ve got is a forever diminishing need for cars as we know them.
The ultimate objective for today’s town planners is a buzzing metropolis in which car ownership brings no advantages for its millions of inhabitants who work, live and play in it.
That’s simply because in tomorrow’s megacities the undeniable convenience associated with traditional car ownership will be provided increasingly by other means.
That’s not to say that city dwellers can do without a car all of the time.
No, there are countless occasions when a car is needed.
For those occasions a conveniently located car is put at their disposal in nearly the same manner as hailing a taxi. And just like a taxi, the car can be rented affordably by the minute.
As strategic thinkers and autoindustry visionaries no less gaze into their cloudy crystal balls to see what Europe’s automotive future will look like in 20 or 30 years time, some visions are clearer to some than others.
But there is one trend most thinkers would willingly agree on: The inexorable and unstoppable significance of urbanisation and the associated changing role of the car as we knew it for decades.
For the forever growing number of urbanites, car sharing, instead of today’s outright ownership of a car, is the future.
BMW, in partnership with car rental firm Sixt, it seems, stands out as a carmaker that saw the light earlier than most.
Going out on a limb with its DriveNow car sharing scheme, BMW says it already signed up 360,000 regular customers in Europe and in America.
It now plans to introduce its innovative DriveNow scheme in 25 further cities.
Only yesterday BMW launched its trendsetting DriveNow operation in London, saying that next spring some all-electric i3s will join its London fleet.
That’s hardly a surprise. Electric car makers can take heart from BMW’s move.
That’s because the i3s poor luck on the conventional car sales scene may give way to a potentially glowing reception from BMW’s youngish and forever expanding DriveNow converts in megacities such as