Written by Marlene Jordan
In the first part we had a deeper look at the different concepts associated with the buzzword sharing. In addition, we analyzed how it can be distinguished from collaborative and access-based consumption, which are more accurate in order to describe the concept of car sharing. Furthermore, we came up with a definition of car sharing and we explained which circumstances have caused the rise of this phenomenon. One of the last points was that collaborative consumption is perceived as an alternative to ownership and Belk (2014) even suggests that we are entering post-ownership economy and that self-identity is influenced by what you can access instead of what you own.
So let´s discuss this topic:
WHY HAS CAR SHARING THE POTENTIAL TO REPLACE CAR OWNERSHIP?
First of all, the actual ownership of commodities, apart from smartphones and other devices, is losing its standing and importance especially among young people (Botsman & Rogers 2010). Ownership has been the desire of the hyper individualistic society in the last decades (Botsman & Rogers 2010; Makower 2009). However, due to new circumstances and the proliferation of access systems in the last decade, actual ownership became less important and isn´t an ultimate desire anymore (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012). Lisa Gansky supports this idea of society change and says that“we’re moving from a world where we’re organized around ownership to one organized around access to assets” (Geron 2013). As a consequence the ideal solution to avoid car ownership is collaborative consumption: car sharing.
Another advantage of car sharing is the fact that no huge economic resources are needed to rent a car. Thus the consumers can access what they either couldn´t afford to buy or what they actively chose not to own due to concerns and burdens (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012). Why should you buy a car and even run into debt when you can easily rent a car?
Furthermore the idea of a car being a sign of independency, status and freedom is obsolete, at least for the digital natives, and perceived as a burden and limitation (Ulrich 2014). Self-identity is not constructed anymore around what or if you own a car, but strongly influenced by what you do and what you share on social media (Botsman & Rogers 2010).
Nowadays, self-identity is to a large degree constructed by lifestyle; car sharing allows their users to choose from a large vehicle fleet with cars in different sizes and styles and thereby adapt the rented car to their mood and lifestyle (Dowling & Simpson 2013; Makower 2009). Why should you tie yourself down to one model if you can choose from various models in car sharing?
Another factor that supports the shift towards car sharing is the trend of re-urbanization. Due to the lack of space a more compact way of living is needed and parking spots are very limited (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012). Makower (2009) illustrates this lack of parking spots in cities with a study, which says that in some cities 40% of the vehicles on the streets are searching for parking. Car sharing services often have dedicated parking spots and thus wasted time for searching a spot is avoided (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012). Moreover, cities usually have a good public transportation network and this infrastructure lets people realize that they don´t need a car (Guevara-Stone 2013).
The main argument for car sharing is the convenience and flexibility due to the internet and the web 2.0 and the better reallocation of resources (Belk 2014; Malhotra & Van Alstyne 2014). Thus, car owners and renters can connect themselves, without needing an intermediary, and therefore not only safe time but also transaction costs (Dowling & Simpson 2013). Thanks to Web 2.0, profiles with reviews of the owners and renters are available, which builds trust among the peer-to-peer car sharing users (The Economist 2013b). Moreover, the fact that “we can locate someone, or something anywhere, in real time from a small device in our hand” (Botsman & Rogers 2010, p.85) makes car sharing even more convenient and flexible. The times when you had to commute to the airport in order to rent a car are over; wherever you are, you can plan your journey with your smartphone and search the nearest car, book it and use it immediately (Ulrich 2014). In contrast to this, you are not so flexible with an own car. At least as long as you don´t have a driverless car. The flexibility of car sharing makes the service even better and car owning redundant. Nowadays the only commodity that you need in order to access all the services and communities are devices and that´s it (Botsman & Rogers 2010).
OR DOESN’T CAR SHARING HAVE THE POTENTIAL?
True, there are some concerns and limits for car sharing that create doubt if car sharing will really replace the ownership of cars. First of all the car still represents a status symbol for several generations, even for some digital natives, and thus car sharing is only a temporary solution for them (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012).
In addition, car sharing is primarily arranged over the Internet. As a consequence, people who have no access or are not as mobile and technology affine are not attracted and therefore excluded from the services (Botsman & Rogers 2010).
Furthermore, some people circumvent renting a car because they don´t like the idea that every kilometer and driver information is monitored (Simpson 2009). Owning a car makes them not trackable, at least not to such a huge extent, and gives more individually-oriented people their independence and freedom.
After having analyzed the different factors that support or discourage the initial question, we will end up these two articles with a conclusion.
This article has shown why collaborative consumption and car sharing have gained popularity influenced, among other things, by the rise of the Internet and web 2.0 in the last decade. The car sharing companies are understood as an information company, rather than a car company, that interacts on their platforms with their customers and is moreover perceived as a hip and fresh brand and community(Gansky 2011). Many people already define themselves by what they can access instead of what they can own and are proud to be a car sharing user (Bardhi & Eckhardt 2012). This trend is especially recognizable among the digital natives.
It can be summarized that car sharing already replaces car ownership to a large degree and is perceived as a hip alternative to ownership.
For a complete replacement a new understanding of mobility and a car as a service, instead of a commodity, is needed. This paradigm shift will need a little bit more time.
Thus, the answer to our question is…
…not yet. But a replacement is imaginable for the near future.
One step in this direction is the fact that the increasing popularity of car sharing caught the attention of car producers, who are also shifting their understanding of mobility and transportation and create their own car sharing programs or collaborate with car rental companies (Belk 2014).
It will be interesting to observe how this case develops in the future, when the potential car buyers have been growing up only in times of the contemporary ‘sharing economy’. Will they prefer the sharing concept, as expected? Or will car sharing already be out then?
Another question is if the Internet giants will use their gathered knowledge of their consumers in order to further enter the market of mobility and transportation? Or will they come up with a better car sharing system? Google already started with their concept of a driverless car and Apple just unveiled their dream of producing an electronic car a few days ago (Ulrich 2014; Welch & Hull 2015). And what will happen with the traditional car manufacturers?
We will see to what extent car ownership will be replaced by car sharing and how vigorously the Internet giants will mix up the industry and make use of their knowledge.
What´s for sure – there will be further developments and improvements in this area!
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