October 2020

C oronavirus, or to be more precise, the reaction to measures designed to mitigate it, is having a major impact on vast areas of life and business. Ideas that seemed far-fetched or at best niche this time last year are now just another fact of life. Garages have seen the way they deal with customers transformed over the last few months as a result of COVID-19, and the pandemic is affecting the way people shop, work, travel and live. Lockdown led to changes in commuting habits, and a pull away from public transport which has so far benefitted garages. However, with high-end folding bicycle manufacturer Brompton launching a new subscription service in September, are we seeing yet another sign of an oft-discussed idea? Will increasingly tech-savvy consumers begin to veer away from car ownership? Brompton’s subscription service enables customers to hire bikes from the company on a monthly or annual basis. Cycling has seen a surge in popularity in the UK in 2020, with riding levels up by 300% on some days according to the Department for Transport. Users will be able to take on an annual subscription, when the scheme begins, at the cost of £30 a month, or a rolling month-on-month contract for £42 a month. A new Brompton can cost £1,000 to buy outright. The new subscription service is an extension to its existing bike hire programme, through which people rent a Brompton for £6.50 a day, or £3.50 if they pay a £25 annual fee. Julian Scriven, Managing Director of Brompton Bike Hire, told the Daily Express: “This new subscription service will revolutionise the way people own a bike, giving them a premium product without the upfront price tag. It’s an option to make everyone’s life easier, whether you’re a commuter, student, family or just want to cycle on the weekends but don’t want to commit or have the space to own a bike forever." Mobility Revolutions have a habit of continuing to spin and spin far longer than anyone expects, with often surprising results. Before you rush off to find your old Che Guevara t-shirt though, ask yourself this – Will the current shift in buying and business patterns lead to a major drop in car ownership? Vehicle subscription services already exist, and are often referred to as ‘mobility services’. Providers, who can be a VM or a third-party, are paid a monthly fee for on-demand access to vehicles. The fee includes insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. In the same vein as music or on-demand TV, the subscription can be turned off at any time. VMs already employing these models worldwide include BMW, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. Where does this leave independent garages, for whom the business model depends largely on owner- drivers who are responsible for sourcing their own servicing and repairs? John Phillips, General Manager at subscriptions-focused software company Zuora commented: “Mobility-as-a Service (MaaS) has been hailed as a trend which could integrate and revolutionise the way city dwellers navigate their passenger journeys from one form of transport to another. Deloitte has claimed that, in dense urban environments, MaaS would offer such an improved journey and passenger experience that it could replace the need for many consumers to own private forms of transportation. “In recent years, consumer appetite has demonstrated a shift from ‘ownership to usership.’ A recent mobility study published by Cox Automotive highlights that the desire to own vehicles is dropping steeply among younger consumers. Enticed by the relatively small fee needed up- front and the convenience offered, 8 AFTERMARKET OCTOBER 2020 BIG ISSUE www.aftermarketonline.net A BICYCLE MADE FOR WHO? With COVID-19 upending old assumptions, is the popularity of subscriptions-based transport set to accelerate?