Slow Adoption: A Closer Look at Car Sharing in Germany

March 7, 2018

By Dr. Tanja Schweiger

If there's any indication Germany is embracing car sharing, look no further than the country's Olympic bobsledders. Fresh from two gold medals and one silver, it's clear they're winning experts in "vehicle" sharing (two- and four-man sleds, specifically). Bringing that mindset home, however, seems more difficult.

Anyone can walk down the streets of Munich and be passed by car sharing vehicles from providers like DriveNow and car2go. The question arises: is this our future? Is it realistic to expect that we are going to give up our own vehicles and start using stationary (picking up the vehicle from a fixed rental station) or free-floating car sharing services (picking-up the vehicle anywhere in the city)? Currently, Germany does not allow ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, or Didi. If it did, how would that further change the ownership and usage model for Germans?

Our recent study focused on the German market shows that only 16% of consumers anticipate car sharing will be their future transportation solution, eliminating private ownership. There is a hybrid view shared by 19% of German consumers that private vehicles may be a part of the car sharing fleet. This could work for individuals living in a city center and needing their vehicle only occasionally. The largest group of consumers, 42%, think car sharing will be used by one specific group of people. A deep dive shows that current car sharing users in Germany are an average age of 46 years old, male (61%) and most of them (89%) are coming from urban areas where various car sharing services are already offered.

What do you think is the future of car sharing in Germany? 

Most Germans don't believe car sharing is the future because of their unwillingness to give up their own vehicles. Only one third of Germans would be willing to forego private car ownership for an alternative transportation model. An international comparison of J.D. Power studies shows that Americans are even more bonded to their vehicles than Germans. Only 26% of Americans would be ready to give up owning their own vehicle. In contrast, 70% of Chinese customers are willing to do that.

German consumers are primarily skeptical toward car sharing due to costs. On one side, almost one-third (32%) of respondents think that current car sharing offers are too expensive. On the other side, many Germans are also worried about the false price calculation such as including costs for uncaused damage (26%) and unexpected extra costs (20%).

What are your main concerns on car sharing?

While the car sharing trend is clearly on the rise in Germany, there are still many obstacles car sharing providers must overcome to go beyond early adopters. Reducing the price and enhancing vehicle's availability and ease of return are measures that will help attract a broader audience. But how can those who love owning their own vehicle be persuaded? And should they be? Watching others as they experience car sharing services, both good and bad, will be a prominent influencer to shifts in interest.

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Dr. Tanja Schweiger is research manager at J.D. Power Europe. She uses car sharing occasionally but cannot imagine giving up owning a vehicle any time soon.

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