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dues70's 1970 Pontiac Bonneville

2020 July
of the Month

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Auto industry nightmare: consumers are giving up cars for good

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Uber driver (photo by Uber)Unprecedented changes are taking place in today's auto industry. Companies old (e.g. Ford, Toyota) and new (e.g. Tesla, Waymo) are working overtime to make cars that run on battery power, drive themselves, and function as taxis. They're doing all that to prepare for a future 10 or 20 years down the road, when electric, autonomous, shared vehicles...

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Interesting trends. While I am trying not to be much of a nay sayer. With just over a 1000 people polled, can we consider the survey results statistically significant ?

Are we, as a society, moving back to the cities though? I am a baby boomer and when I was young, people were fleeing the cities for the suburbs in droves. I see constant new construction of homes in the northern, eastern, and western Detroit suburbs. I don't think we are...at least not yet. We are certainly migrating from the northern states to the south and/or west states. The census tells us that.

Yes, some revitalization in downtown Detroit has occurred to bring people back down to the riverfront area. However you get 2-3 miles away from the river front area and you are back into skid row and into places you generally don't want to be after dark.

So sticking with cities with large mass transit systems for a moment. Yes, it is easy to not own a car on a daily basis, especially if parking and insurance is horrendous in these places. What happens when you want to leave the city though?

Are the X, Y, and soon-to-be Z generations attracted to these large cities because they don't want to own cars. Probably not. Its probably more likely that these cities are where their jobs and careers are and the cost of living in these places makes sense to do without a car and use mass transit on a daily basis instead. However, I think these communities are more the abnormal since most medium-to-large cities don't have large subway or elevated train systems. Typically those communities have some sort of bus only mass transit systems.

So are bus services going to grow in the next 10-30 years. Probably yes. Almost certainly it will within the low income groups that cannot afford a car to begin with. However, will large scale numbers of low, medium, and perhaps high income Americans turn in their cars for buses and uber/autonomous taxis? I remain a tad bit skeptical.

America's love affair with the automobile is over a century old. I don't see us giving cars up in a decade or two. Pundents have predicted the death of the V8 engine for at least 30-40 years and it's still here. They also predicted we'd have Jetson flying cars too. They still aren't here. So what do you believe?

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