The business of commuting

The commute contributes to our economy, what will changing travel habits mean for the automotive aftermarket? H Pells MSc CAE FIMI

The great remote working experiment forced upon much of the population due to the global medical crisis is coming to an end. Lessons learned of how remote working can be effective are countered with arguments of poor assessment when there was little or no choice for so many people. Exuberant uptake for a change of scene, albeit for work or leisure, has brought road traffic closer to pre-pandemic levels utilising an older UK car parc and a sense of uncertainty for motorists who are currently considering their options for future vehicle purchases from a more expensive pool than previously experienced.

Government encouragement to see the workforce return to the workplace has been met with a mixed response. It would be sceptical to assume that this could be rooted in fear that jobs capable of being executed in a dining room in Scunthorpe, could also be performed anywhere in the world, which could cause something of an unemployment headache for our current administration if jobs suddenly haemorrhaged overseas.

The commute creates business opportunity for those who facilitate the journeys made. From coffee bars to workshops, enabling hassle free movement, sprinkling a few joyous luxuries into what this slog can be. This has created commerce, but also training and career development for a variety of sectors.

 

Recognising that for some, full-time employment out of the home is best, and for others – wholly remaining within their own four walls really works, it is likely that a hybrid model will come to evolve as the working population adjusts following the trauma of the pandemic. Large companies are making their feelings plain, either by using an enforced return to the command-and-control model of the centralised workplace or a more laid-back approach to flexible hours. Time will tell who backed the right employment strategy. With a shortage of talent, shortening the labour available to only those who can conform to limiting hours would perhaps only work for the most confident of their sector.

Nervousness of wholesome return to pre covid-19 work  has demonstrated, personal transport solutions will be an important aspect of how the new model of working evolves. Public transport, especially with the continued use of PPE to engage with it, may serve as a reminder of darker times. This environment may still carry perceived risk, meaning a private mode of transport may be preferred. Whilst vehicle use within the household is adjusted to the change in travel habits, they are unlikely to be consigned as a relic just yet.

 

How will cars be used before mainstream uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles?

Instead of “my car” and “your car”, we may see “big car” and “small car” – or even “car” and “bicycles”, all dependant on the work/location/situation variables. This might be a difficult shift as statement of identity is often extended to vehicles, and many have vehicles as an employment package which can make them problematic to share. The decision to shed a vehicle may be made when faced with a fiscally unviable repair, and the replacement downsized, or perhaps not replaced at all.

Depersonalisation of private transport may give rise to subscription model access to variable transport which includes maintenance, or the aftermarket has an opportunity to help manage their fleet of motorists using customer relationship management strategies, helping with the navigation of maintenance and repair on behalf of the user.

As a service industry, understanding what the future service needs will be from the modern motorist will be just as important as understanding the technology that is physically entering the workshop. For the immediate future, Q3 will likely be a bumper quarter for service and repair.

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