Car-Ownership and COVID-19

Has the Pandemic Affected Vehicle Ownership?

By Andreea Hanko

Sourrce: Vividata’s Survey of the Canadian Consumer 2020.

This year’s COVID-19 pandemic created many changes in the car ownership scene in Canada. The mobility market in Canada is changing. Changes in consumer behaviours and rising economic uncertainties, as well as rising unemployment and health concerns, are some of the trends that are expected to shift the demand for new cars, according to Euromonitor’s 2020 reports. The pandemic has also affected companies that offer ride-sharing services including Uber and Lyft. For example, Lyft reported a 75% decline in business in April 2020 alone.  

The future of the shared mobility industry is expected to grow stronger once the pandemic is over, as many companies are starting to adopt new digital food and parcel delivery and payment services. Although automotive and technology companies have made a significant and arguably positive impact on vehicle connectivity and AI, the pandemic is expected to delay the launch of autonomous vehicles. Experts predict that the credibility of these vehicles depends on consumer trust and value as well as their knowledge of how these vehicles function.

Mobility is changing fast and slowly

Sourrce: Vividata’s Survey of the Canadian Consumer 2020.

Mobility has been changing for a long time, even before COVID, but the pandemic only accelerated the pace. Some people have been experiencing positive changes during the pandemic in different ways like being able to ride a bike to work or walk outdoors for hours and become more physically active, which has improved their overall health. Purchase trends have also changed, car dealerships are struggling to adapt to an online platform since a traditional in-person experience is vital for automotive companies looking to provide the ultimate customer value.  Car owners will likely receive less for their trade-ins and down-payments. Auto sales in Canada are expected to average around $1.5 million this year,  which is 23% less than last year. This is mainly due to economic uncertainty, which means that consumers are likely to waive near-term purchases and more prone to waiting it out before completing a transaction.

Public transport has also been affected. Many cities and municipalities have reported heavy losses and a decline in the number of passengers travelling by bus and train. Although the TTC has taken significant steps to protect their passengers including enhanced cleansing, deploying other vehicles on busy routes and blocking off seats to ensure physical distancing, there is some concern with the effectiveness of these measures as more people will be returning to the system since the virus is more likely to be transmitted in overcrowded places.

However, it’s not all grim as most consumers still prefer public transit, especially in larger cities due to health concerns and the environmental impact. The pandemic has also impacted the Electric Vehicles market in positive ways! EV sales continue to rise and are projected to grow despite economic uncertainty according to latest reports by Euromonitor. According to, over 55% of millennials no longer have an interest in owning a car, they would rather use car sharing services such as Uber or Lyft. Before the pandemic, many Canadians had been relying on shared vehicles to get from one place to another. This was good because car-sharing reduces traffic congestion and makes the road more accessible for everyone and is less crowded.

After the pandemic, AI and self-driving vehicles will pose a threat to car ownership as well. Autonomous vehicles are going to change the way people feel about car ownership. These cars will put an end to travel times and open doors to new opportunities and transform the way city infrastructures are planned. These cars offer commuters quick and more convenient transits from point A to point B.

Caution and autonomy after the pandemic

There’s no doubt that mobility has been disrupted severely by the pandemic. It’s a question of our willingness to adapt to these ongoing changes and new opportunities. Transportation has been evolving even before the pandemic. For example, the railway system was suffering even before COVID-19, due to the lack of consumer demand and the emergence of new technologies and trends in the way people move or commute as autonomous driving, connected and electric vehicles as well as shared mobility. According to Gerhard Kreß, Head of Data Services at Siemens Mobility IoT is not just about the technology that’s easily scalable now, but about the ability for customers to monetize it, and the next decade will see more digital transformation that will demand a detailed rethinking of “passenger value”.  

We must refine these new automotive technologies so that they can be sustainable and efficient long after the pandemic is gone and until the next one comes along. To achieve this, connectivity should be seamless throughout the ecosystem. It’s not just about connected cars, but also connected intersections, traffic signals, crosswalks and the Internet. It’s about building an interconnected system that benefits everyone equally, whether it’s the ability to reduce traffic in metropolitan cities or minimizing the impact of pollution on the environment. It’s about using a combination of technologies and systems to build a transportation network that runs smoothly, with fewer delays and breakdowns.

To learn more industry perspectives on the state of automotive, register for this FREE webinar “Automotive Diaries: Coming out Stronger Post COVID-19” at MRIA on September 24th, Thursday.

Andreea Hanko has a BA in Management from York University and lives in Toronto.

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