This research takes a in-depth look at the relationship people have with cars and their willingness to move away from a relationship of personal ownership. The research involved respondents across a range of car ownership situations including:
- Car owners who do not use other transport
- Car owners who sometimes use other transport but who still rely heavily on their cars
- Car owners who recently started using other transport
- People who have moved away from car ownership.
The research consisted of ten depth interviews with respondents purposively chosen to fit a range of car ownership and usage scenarios. Interviews were conducted across May and June 2019, in South Australia where there is high ownership and usage of private vehicles.
Car ownership seems to be a habitual behaviour and an assumed activity. It typically follows on from the experience people have grown up with, and becomes an expected behavior. Disruptions to this ownership path are rare and not triggered from an evaluation of the ownership but rather external event which bring it into the consideration set (leasing a car for work, or moving to the CBD) or forces it (moving to a home with no parking).
This research looked at a scenario where inner-city living meant a car was not needed and when the business leasing model was taken into the private context. In both instances, the behaviour happened and then positive attitudes to not owning a car formed after the event. This follows the pattern of what we know about how attitudes typically describe past behavior better than predict future and therefore are seen to follow behavior change.
Given that re-evaluation of car ownership is rare and that economic arguments for non-ownership tend to fall on deaf ears, the marketing implications are:
- Don’t make economic or rational appeals in communications the main message in communications or focus of program activity when seeking to reduce car ownership
- Help people to form easy and new repertoires of transport options when the owned car is removed from the choice set
- Don’t assume sustainability is the key driver for a move away from car ownership. There may be other motives (economic being a strong one) or no real motive, but rather just a forced life event.
- Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge facing a brand that is introducing alternatives to private vehicle ownership models. Therefore, the focus should be on creating mental and physical availability above all else.