Millennials set to drive boom in car ownership in 2021

Despite Covid-19’s economic impact, dealers are buckling in for a bumper sales year

While the Covid pandemic is predicted to hit the economy hard, the mood music on Irish forecourts is surprisingly positive, with dealers reporting strong used car sales and some distributors predicting sales of more than 100,000 new cars next year.

One distributor told The Irish Times that pre-orders for its brand’s new cars in January were greater than they were this time last year.

A further positive indicator comes from the latest EY Mobility Consumer Index, which shows that millennials are set to drive a car ownership boom next year.

This cohort – aged between 24 and 39 – is expected to lead a car ownership boom in the coming six months across the globe, representing 45 per cent of all first-time car owners, according to the report, which surveyed more than 3,300 consumers across nine countries.

The Covid pandemic seems to have changed people’s attitudes to car ownership. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of non-car owners plan to buy one in the next six months, while 20 per cent who already own a car are open to potentially purchasing an additional vehicle. Both groups cited the impact of the pandemic as one of the top reasons for their purchases.

Petrol or diesel

While the motor industry is focused on electric vehicles, the report found 71 per cent of non-car owners currently seeking a new car are looking to buy a petrol or diesel model, with just 6 per cent looking to purchase a purely electric vehicle and 23 per cent looking to buy a hybrid.

According to Yvonne Kiely, head of EY-Seren Ireland, "The Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping all aspects of life and our approach to transport, both as individuals and businesses, is no exception. The results of our international mobility research point to an unexpected surge of interest among millennials in car ownership, and a surprising preference for non-electric vehicles.

“A key take-away for the automotive industry is that car ownership appears to have growing appeal in 2021, and a new market is emerging that is keen to make purchasing decisions imminently as the global pandemic continues. This growing appeal needs to be matched by building further awareness around electric vehicles.”

The survey also found that public transport is taking a hit across the world, with a 69 per cent reduction in public transport use for work overall across all nine countries surveyed. Kiely says that to counteract this reluctance to return to public transport, “we need to truly understand their concerns; are they around reliability, health and safety or do they seek more independence to travel outside of established public transport routes?”