‘Car as an object of dreams is disappearing’
The number of cars is still increasing in the world, but the car as an object of dreams is slowly disappearing, thinks Jean-François Doulet, mobility expert at Ecole d’Urbanisme in Paris and author of Atlas de l’Automobile. We asked him three questions.
End of the car era?
“It’s difficult to say if the end of the car is near. The number of cars is still increasing and in the western world the younger people have more choices, they still use the car but don’t necessarily buy it anymore, even not second-hand. Less people are dreaming of a new car, the dream car is slowly disappearing…”
“There is a tendency to overemphasize what is happening in the centres of the big cities. The inhabitants of Paris intra muros, for example, have special consumer attitudes, totally different from the rest of France and even from those residing in the suburban centres of the same city.”
Mega-cities are threatening the future of the car?
“The (mostly richer) people in the city centres don’t want to own a car anymore, they can prove their status by being mobile, by travelling by whatever means, to be open to the world. But most of the people live just outside these real centres, also in developing countries, and there the number of cars is comparable to the rural areas. Big cities are also generators of mobility and the urban world isn’t against cars.”
What about the SUV and the increasing luxury trend?
“Earlier on the car was one of the status symbols in a society that got increasingly wealthy. This is still the case in the emerging countries. In our communities there is a growing difference between those who are simply looking for mobility, those who see the car only as a means of transport and those who still consider a car as a prestige or status symbol.”
“Especially people who still see their car as a status symbol will be attracted to SUVs, which have become the reference among middle classes all over the world. For them the SUV is a reaction to the financial crisis, to social decline. It’s a sort of comfortable safety cocoon in a dangerous world. Some still like to invest in a car, as a sort of hedonistic pleasure in an increasingly stressful society.”