Auto-Sharing: Bad News for Carmakers?

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There are more than 250 million vehicles on U.S. highways today, but that number could drop and drop fast if researchers in Taiwan are correct about the growth of car sharing. According to researchers at TrendForce, the global car-sharing market is expected to reach 15 million users and include 260,000 vehicles by 2016.

That total looks rather anemic compared with more than 1 billion vehicles in the global vehicle fleet, but each shared vehicle can replace from 9 to 13 private vehicles according to TrendForce. The researchers also estimate that car sharing will be able to replace some 2.43 to 3.38 million private vehicles globally by 2016.

The car-sharing market got its start in the U.S. with Zipcar, now part of the Avis Budget Group. Europe now accounts for about half the global car-share market, and momentum for the concept is getting stronger in Asia, particularly in China where, according to TrendForce, “the country’s transportation networks have yet to reach the outer edges of cities and towns.” It is also expensive and difficult for drivers to purchase license plates, adding to the attractiveness of car-sharing.

According to TrendForce analyst Eric Chang:

It is more convenient than commuting via public transports and has greater time flexibility versus traditional car rental services. Moreover, users do not have to worry about taxes and maintenance costs, and they can return vehicles at different locations. On the whole, car sharing has significant cost-performance advantage over other transportation methods, including carpooling.

Related research in the U.S. at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute reported earlier this year that self-driving cars could cut the need for vehicles by as much as 43% in the U.S. Add in another 10% or so reduction due to car-sharing and the world’s automakers face some bumpy roads going forward.

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