Will Covid-19 lead us towards more sustainable car-buying decisions?
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With much of the world’s population in isolation and/or lockdown, pollution levels have fallen dramatically.
Well-publicised European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA satellite imaging has shown dramatic air-quality improvements over major cities as industry and transport have slowed during the Covid-19 crisis.
Scientists and climate change experts have been quick to point out that this isn’t really a silver lining to Covid-19, because it’s temporary.
In fact, the current crisis is also pushing back important climate-change work for governments all around the world.
But it’s possible that living in a cleaner earth for even just a few weeks, coupled with the extra economic pressure and uncertainty caused by the crisis, is helping many individuals rethink their car-buying priorities.
A new study in the UK by fleet company Venson has shown that 45 per cent of respondents say their awareness of the sudden improvement in air quality during the Covid-19 crisis has made them reconsider the purchase of an electric vehicle.
Nineteen per cent said their next car would be an EV, while 26 per cent said they would become an EV owner in the next five years.
A move to cleaner vehicles doesn’t just have to mean a radical shift to electric power. For many, it could simply mean a change to a smaller and/or more economical vehicle.
The capital cost of EVs remains relatively high - although there’s a plentiful market of used-import examples in New Zealand – but a switch to a cleaner combustion-engine vehicle could also mean potential savings in purchase price and a substantial reduction in running costs.
A NZ-specific study by Penrose Data comparing Kiwi consumer attitudes before and after lockdown shows that although 70 per cent believe the move to Level 4 has been effective, fewer than half say they feel financially stable.
Ninety per cent say the crisis will have an effect on their willingness to make a major purchase. Recreational equipment and computers are top of the worry list (34 per cent), but cars and property are right behind (33 per cent).
Penrose Data chief executive Geoff Walmsley is currently caught up in his fourth week of lockdown in the Netherlands and sees many similarities with NZ.
“The Netherlands is currently in its fourth week of nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 crisis - where the curve is just starting to flatten off.
“The lead time ahead of the New Zealand market gave us a better understanding of the challenges that would be faced for consumers and companies alike and allowed us to measure attitudinal shifts as the Level 4 changes were implemented.
“We believe that access to timely information can help businesses better navigate the challenges ahead,” he says.