There continue to be lots of pronouncements across media platforms regarding what the “new normal” will mean for the UK after two years of a covid pandemic. For many commentators, changes introduced to keep British society and its economy going through its innumerable lockdowns are here to stay; one mentioned most is hybrid working. This seems to promote the idea that, if possible, people should work from home if they can, rather than commute to an office. Not only does this reduce the risk of infection, it is good for the environment, or so the story goes. Even if this is true, however, research is showing that car ownership is set to become even more popular than it was pre-pandemic.
Workforce Habit Changes
Major findings of a number of statistical projects carried out from 2020 to 2021 are revealing. Among the most important is that, at least during the pandemic itself, the proportion of employees travelling to work Monday to Friday fell from 49% to 32%. Further, throughout the British economy as a whole, it is actually more likely for people to commute three out of five days rather than four, while fully one fifth of the workforce are unlikely to work from the office even one day a week. These statistics certainly point to a dramatic change in the habits of the UK’s workforce.
In terms of car ownership, however, these statistics may not add up to what a casual observer may think. That is to say, just because people won’t commute as much as they did, that doesn’t mean vehicle manufacturers will be going out of business. This is in large part because the British economy has been increasingly based around private vehicle ownership since the 1980s. During that time, developments from housing estates to shopping facilities and even national transport infrastructure have all been formulated and built with the assumption that workers, residents and visitors will need more road space.
Of course, those living in rural areas have always needed their own transport, and this is probably more true in 2022 than ever. One other statistic which has perhaps slipped under the radar is that of reduced numbers of garages. Although the online check MOT service helps a large number of rural drivers, the fact is that testing centres themselves are struggling to survive in many areas of the country. This adds up to increased fuel use, stress for residents and more wear and tear on vehicles when they do find a reputable MOT mechanic.
If habits changed by the covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns have proved anything, therefore, it would appear that demand for private cars and vans is unlikely to decrease any time soon. It is highly likely, in fact, that restrictions imposed during lockdowns made people realise how important their cars and vans are. For millions of people, “popping down to the shops” for groceries is simply not possible; feeding a family usually means driving to an out of town complex and filling the boot as well as the tank. Not only that, those wanting to visit the UK’s national parks almost always have to drive, leading to conflicts with residents and increased pressure on local services.
As people were separated from their families during the lockdowns, they understandably rushed to reunite with them when these were lifted. Doing so has often only been realistically possible using private transport. Getting on a train or bus inevitably means exposing family members to the risk of infection, which can then be passed on to those being visited. Also, public transport itself was hit by absenteeism due to covid, on top of seemingly ever changing advice and / or legislation regarding masks, seating arrangements and many other factors.
With these experiences fresh in the memory, it is expected that many millions of UK citizens will want to travel privately if and when they can. The impending ban of new petrol and diesel vehicle production is also having the effect of pushing demand and production of ever more efficient and affordable electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids; this is sure to help families feel better about buying a new car. At the same time, online facilities like check MOT sites and apps are being bolstered by web-based new and used car buying businesses. As it gets ever easier to drive a safe, clean car, the British workforce’s commuting habits are not something that car manufactures have to worry about.