The coronavirus crisis has breathed new hope into the future of the automobile as experts believe many consumers will move away from mass transit in favour of a vehicle that can provide personal space.
The global boss of Mercedes-Benz, Ola Källenius (pictured below), told a video conference with international media overnight that consumers around the world were starting to once again embrace the idea of their own passenger car.
Until the coronavirus crisis led to lockdowns and social distancing requirements around the world, the automotive industry was bracing for a downturn in global sales as more consumers adopted ride-sharing or car-sharing services and purchased fewer motor vehicles.
However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has prompted many people to reconsider their choice of transport.
“It’s too early for final assessments of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius. “But there are (several key learnings) I think are important.
“The founding fathers of this company – Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz – gave us individual mobility,” said Mr Källenius.
“Now we are reminded of how important the car – our own protected, safe zone – can be. It means freedom.
“Individual mobility is valuable and should be protected, but we need to take it into the future with new technologies.”
Mr Källenius said most Mercedes-Benz factories were beginning to ramp up production after pausing during COVID-19 lockdowns – and customer interest in new models was gradually improving.
“Most of our showrooms around the world are now open again and customers are coming back in – especially in China,” said Mr Källenius.
“There, we’re almost back to normal in terms of showroom traffic. So I have cautious optimism.”
In Australia, many states have introduced restrictions on how many people can ride in a bus or a train in peak commuting periods and have asked office workers to stagger their start and finish times to avoid overcrowding in lifts and on public transport.
However, transport experts have warned there will be gridlock on the roads if everyone drives to work.