Owning, driving your car, truck or SUV as ‘American as apple pie’

Personal vehicle ownership may go the way of the dinosaurs one day, but not anytime soon, suggests a recent study.

Aimed at finding out “what people really think about [autonomous vehicles], ride-hailing, car-sharing and personal ownership,” the study included consumer focus groups and a national survey about the future of personal transportation.

“What we found cuts against much of the ‘conventional wisdom,’” reported Peter Welch, president and CEO of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which commissioned the study.

“Silicon Valley and Wall Street have been pushing the false narrative that owning a car is a hassle – an expensive, unnecessary purchase that folks would rather do away with,” according to Welch. “The survey showed the complete opposite.”

Alternatives to car ownership – autonomous vehicles, commonly referred to as self-driving cars, along with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and car-sharing services that allow motorists to rent vehicles for a short period (often by the hour) – are popular topics in the mainstream press.

So you might be ready to believe that these options soon will replace personal ownership of vehicles.

But here’s what the NADA study found:

  • Most car owners have little, if any, interest in giving up their car keys (89 percent).
  • Cars still are convenient to own, not an “unnecessary purchase” (93.5 percent).
  • Millennials aren’t much different than other consumers in their desire to own (81 percent).
  • People aren’t willing to pay less if they will lose convenience.

“Only 11 percent of car owners in our survey were interested in giving up their personal vehicles to move exclusively toward a ride-hailing service,” Welch said, “even under the assumption that the service was widely accessible, safer and more affordable than human-operated vehicles.”

This was true among all age groups, geographic regions, education and income levels, he added.

“Fully 90 percent of car owners surveyed said that … their car provides them the freedom and flexibility to go where they want, when they want,” wrote Welch.

Survey respondents cited a number of benefits of personal vehicle ownership compared to ride-hailing, including the ability to:

  • Make multiple trips on an errand run (54 percent).
  • Take an impromptu trip to another city or state (28 percent).
  • Leave an event earlier or later than planned (18 percent).
  • Drive unexpectedly to an emergency room.

“If real consumers have anything to say about it, the future of transportation will be built upon the foundation of personally owned vehicles, whether human operated or autonomous,” according to the NADA executive. “Consumers will continue to purchase their own vehicles and use ride-hailing services as a supplement whenever it’s more convenient.”

“Owning your own vehicle is as American as apple pie,” he said.

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