Automobilisation of societies, new and used car markets, and business opportunities in the industry

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We call “automobilisation of societies” the ways consumers/societies access and then develop their use of cars as a (and often as the main) tool to organise individual mobility. Seen from the business side, these ‘automobilisations’ are too often linked to the markets of new cars, which is only the visible part of the market. Such a vision tends then to ignore two main elements that are often more important for households and businesses: used car markets and car services.
By considering this “invisible part” of the automobilisations’ stories and trajectories, our program could develop a better understanding of structuring and restructuring processes. Indeed, in developed countries, it usually appears that used car markets become more and more important over time, and that large majorities of households never buy new cars. Their car expenses are strongly dominated by users’ costs, and business opportunities are then largely localised in used car markets and aftersales service markets, where carmakers and carmakers’ networks are most of the time in a dominated position. In some emerging markets, similarly, households’ motorization is mainly due to their ability to buy used cars and especially imported ones. Then it is not associated to business opportunities for carmakers whose brands play in these contexts a marginal role in households’ relationships to cars. These configurations, central in Mexico and in CEECs, raise very crucial questions for deepening our understanding of the structuring processes. They imply a greater attention to a wide range of actors as used car dealers (and importers), spare parts dealers, and repairers. They raise questions about the carmakers and policy makers’ ability to adapt their policies to these specific contexts. Is there a room for new cars in a short and/or in a medium term perspective? What strategies and/or product policies are able to change these structures to enlarge progressively this room? What tax policies and/or environmental or car safety policies are (and/or could be) developed to rebalance the respective shares of new and used car markets? In other contexts, like in China, used car imports are very limited and the number of cars in use are then narrowly linked to the past sales of new cars. As in the past (in US during the 20s and in Europe during the 60s e.g.), used car markets become however progressively more and more important as an alternative access to the automobility for non equipped households on one hand, and as a way to replace their cars for motorized households on the other hand. Following these trends, automobilisation also opens fields of research dealing with the macro-linkages of demand and strategies/policies. Whereas the question of macro linkages is often presented as a capacity to grasp the needs of consumers and the structures of demand, which is of great importance, it also entails deeper and less-explored dynamics such as the linkages between wages and demand. Which cars for what kind of needs and consumers? Is the ongoing dominant antifordist dynamic linked to increasing inequalities sustainable? What can we learn about the future of markets and industries from the macroeconomic politics and measures taken in old and emerging countries?

We call in this theme for communications giving attention to the social and political construction of the second hand and new car markets, whether entering in the scope of the balance between old car markets and new car markets, of the linkages between the greening of the economy and the structures of car markets and fleets, or of the macroeconomic dynamics. We especially welcome papers focusing on Asia, without excluding communications based on other territories.

Copyright© Gerpisa
Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Géry Deffontaines

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