The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association released their latest sales numbers. For the first quarter of 2013, reports the European Cyclist's Federation, car sales were down 9.8% compared to the same period in 2012. In fact, the 12 million units sold in 2012 represents the industry's slowest year since 1995. Worse yet, sales are expected this year to be down another 5-8%.
In contrast, points out Fabian Küster, the ECF's senior policy officer, bicycle sales rose from 18.9 million in 2000 to around 20 million in 2011: that's nearly two bikes for every car sold.
Küster notes that all these bikes are not just for "decoration."
[T]hey are used more and more: Germany saw a 50 % increase in cycling between 2002 and 2011; In the Netherlands, the success of e-bikes (pedelecs) contributed to an increase of 9 % in km cycled in just one year (from 2010 to 2011); Cycling in many capital cities doubled over the past decade, including in London and Dublin. Pedelecs are a main driver in this new mobility behaviour, making also for a convincing business case: in 2011, 716,000 electric bicycles were sold in the EU, compared to only 11,500 e-cars. A stunning relation of 62 : 1. This is one of the reasons why so many car manufacturers have entered the e-bike business.
The fall in car sales might be attributable, in part, to the economic woes besetting the weaker members of the European Union, but Küster thinks there's also another factor at play, citing the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, who observed that, "In many countries, young people do not aspire car ownership anymore. Smartphones and tablets have partly taken over from the car as the new status symbols.”
It is an idle hope to believe that as soon as Europe’s economy recovers, car sales will go up again to pre-crisis levels. Young people in urban settings fare pretty well in just using a car when occasionally needed. While declining car sales may pose challenges to (some) European car makers, less car use and more cycling has at the same time great (economic) opportunities.
Posted By: Bill Moore [22-Apr-2013]
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