One-in-three people say the ability to book a taxi or minicab through their smartphone is an alternative to owning a car, in a sign of the potential upheaval vehicle manufacturers are facing to their business models.
Carmakers are grappling with the prospect of falling vehicle ownership in large cities, where parking costs and congestion make traditional ownership less attractive than in rural areas.
Ride-sharing and on-demand taxi apps were considered a viable alternative to ownership by 34 per cent of people, up from 29 per cent a year earlier, in a global Capgemini survey of 8,000 people in eight countries.
The annual consumer survey, which polled 1,000 consumers in the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, India, China and Brazil, also showed the percentage of people who would consider using an on-demand service had risen from 34 per cent to 50 per cent in the past two years.
“There is now a huge interest in this,” said Nick Gill, senior automotive analyst at Capgemini. “In the last year it has really taken off.”
This is a trend that is likely to continue, with two-thirds of the world’s population set to live in cities by 2050.
Several carmakers have responded by investing in ride-booking services, such as Uber or Lyft, while some, from BMW to Ford, have launched their own car sharing schemes in city centres.
The launch of shared riding options, such as Uber’s Pool or Gett’s GettTogether service, has increased the scope of on-demand services. Ford and VW are also launching inner-city minibus services.
Mr Gill forecast that the shift from car ownership to shared ownership or on-demand services is “closer than we think”, as city authorities bring in measures to disincentivise personal car use and ease congestion.
He said within five years there may be “strong legislation or pushes, fiscal incentives to not drive cars, and the inner-city areas reserved just for mobility services”.
The survey showed a spread in attitudes towards transport services between developed nations and emerging markets.
While 80 per cent of respondents in China said they were likely or very likely to use “mobility on demand” services, the figure was 39 per cent in the US, 29 per cent in Germany and just 18 per cent in the UK. Mr Gill said the numbers in China were “very scary” for carmakers.
Didi, the Chinese rival to Uber, carries out almost 20m rides daily, or 7bn a year. But despite the growing use of ride-booking options in China, attachment to car ownership remains on a similar level with other international markets.
In both mature markets and emerging markets, a third of consumers said they would consider app services as an alternative to car ownership. In one surprising finding, those aged over 50 were fractionally more likely to ditch their vehicles in favour of transport apps compared with those in the 35-49 bracket. Some 32 per cent of 35 to 49-year-olds would consider apps as an alternative to a car, while 34 per cent of over-50s would. Among those aged 18-34, the figure was 36 per cent.